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Owen in hot water for Arteta ‘punch’

OWEN-KICKLONDON, England, February 3 – Michael Owen faces an anxious wait to discover if he is to be punished for throwing a punch during Stoke City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday.

The former England forward, 33, appeared to strike Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta on the back after reacting angrily to a full-blooded challenge by the Spanish midfielder.

Referee Chris Foy awarded a free-kick to Arsenal but did not punish Owen with either a yellow or red card, which means retrospective action by the Football Association is possible.

Owen, who has been capped 89 times for England during a stellar career with Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United, had come on as a late substitute for the Potters.

“Arteta’s challenge was a poor challenge but Michael shouldn’t do that,” admitted his manager, Tony Pulis. “That should be left to the referee.

“We will see what they say. Obviously I’m going to be biased because this is my football club, my team. If Michael has done what they say he has done, then they will look at it.”

Arsenal’s 78th-minute winner was also controversial as initially it seemed as though it would be ruled out for offside, only for Foy to point to the centre circle following consultation with an assistant.

Germany international Lukas Podolski, who had come on as a substitute for hosts, had seen his free-kick deflected into the net off Geoff Cameron, Stoke’s American international defender.

Arsenal forward Theo Walcott had been in an offside position, but Foy ruled he had not been interfering with play.

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Pulis was critical of the officials, and of the Arsenal players’ initial reaction when it appeared the goal would not be given.

“You will have to get someone to explain it to us because you are either offside or you’re not,” he said.

“Are they active or not active? I don’t know, I haven’t got a clue. It’s very ambiguous in lots of ways.

“The disappointing thing for me was that the linesman has given the decision and the Arsenal players surrounded him. I thought you weren’t allowed to surround officials today.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he had not seen the Owen incident but he made it clear he was satisfied that the officials had made the correct call over Podolski’s goal.

“We were a bit lucky with the goal but overall we deserved this win,” he said.

“I thought the linesman had given offside or maybe somebody from us had handled the ball. I have heard Walcott was offside but he was not interfering with the game. Then it is a normal goal.”

The controversy is the latest chapter in a long-running feud between the two clubs.

Wenger has likened Stoke’s playing style to a rugby team and the bad blood reached critical mass in February 2010 when a challenge from Potters captain Ryan Shawcross left Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey with a badly broken leg.

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“There were some heated moments but I don’t think there was anything exceptional with the tackles,” Wenger added.

“I feel Theo Walcott got a good treatment but I am happy with the way he responded.”

Shawcross was involved in another flash-point when he went in studs-up on Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny. Foy showed him a yellow card when other officials might have produced a red.

Wenger did not say as much but hinted he was not impressed.

“I’m not completely objective with Ryan Shawcross so that is why I am a bit cautious with my statement,” he said.

Arsenal remain in sixth place in the Premier League table but closed the gap on Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, the teams directly above them.

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