LONDON, January 25 – Arsenal became the latest member of the Premier League's elite to suffer an early exit from the FA Cup as Ricardo Fuller's double strike inspired Stoke's 3-1 win over the Gunners in the fourth round on Sunday.
Manchester United, humbled by League One Leeds, and Liverpool, shocked by Reading, both perished in the third round and Arsene Wenger’s much-changed side were condemned to an equally chastening defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
After claiming that Arsenal remain vulnerable to physical opponents, Fuller underlined his pre-match jibe by heading the hosts into the lead after 70 seconds.
The Gunners defence, including debutant Sol Campbell, failed to deal with Rory Delap’s trademark long-throw and Fuller nipped in front of hesitant goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to head home from close-range.
Wenger’s team drew level in the 42nd minute when Denilson’s shot trickled past Thomas Sorensen after deflecting off two Stoke defenders.
But Fuller, who had scored twice against Arsenal last season, proved a thorn in their side yet again in the 78th minute.
Mamady Sidibe crossed from the right and Jamaican international Fuller escaped Campbell’s attentions to head past Fabianski.
Dean Whitehead ensured Arsenal would suffer their first defeat in 10 matches when he turned in Matthew Etherington’s cross with four minutes to play.
Wenger insisted he had no regrets about his team selection as Arsenal have so many key league games coming soon. "I wanted to win this game and I don’t regret the team I picked, I did not have much choice," he said.
"If you look at our schedule it’s simply that you cannot always play with the same eleven.
"If you rotate and you don’t win it’s your fault. I can only stand up and say that’s the team that I picked."
In the day’s other game, Manchester City eased into the last 16 with a 4-2 win over Championship strugglers Scunthorpe at Glanford Park.
City’s under-strength side took the lead in the third minute when Bulgaria midfielder Martin Petrov smashed a blistering strike past Joe Murphy.
The underdogs hit back in the 29th minute when Paul Hayes took advantage of a debatable offside decision to volley home.
Nedem Onouha restored City’s lead in first half stoppage time with a low strike after Stephen Ireland’s delicate chipped pass opened up the Scunthorpe defence.
Brazilian defender Sylvinho seemed to have put City in complete control when he launched a fabulous long-range effort past Murphy in the 57th minute.
Scunthorpe refused to go quietly and City’s young defender Dedryck Boyata gave them hope in the 69th minute when he deflected Cliff Byrne’s shot into his own net.
Any hopes of a replay were extinguished in the 84th minute when Robinho ran onto Petrov’s pass and shot into the roof of the net to mark what could be the unsettled Brazilian’s final appearance for City.