Monday 13th September 2010
Stoke City 2 – 1 Aston Villa
Well isn’t that just football. A decent performance and one that was almost backed up by a great result turns into a crushing blow in ten minutes. Villa ended up rueing missed chances whilst ahead and paid the price. All in all you can’t really blame the players, the manager or anything but the referee for a decision that cost Villa a well earned point at the Britannia Stadium.
It was clear from the outset that this away day would be very tricky and Stoke started the game the brighter with numerous set-pieces and Rory Delap specials. Villa set up as they have done in all of their games under Kevin MacDonald with Ashley Young playing off a lone striker. In this case that lone striker was Gabby Agbonlahor who represented Villa’s only change from the 1-0 win over Everton, replacing John Carew. With the Norwegian deemed unfit to take any part it was questioned whether Heskey should pose a more physical threat to an excessively physical Stoke back line. This choice from MacDonald proved to be a good one, forcing the visitors to retain possession with a simple passing game.
Kenwyne Jones spurned an early chance from a corner and saw a left footed strike well saved by Brad Friedel in the opening 20 minutes. It was at this stage that Villa started to dominate proceedings with Reo-Coker, preferred to fit again Stephen Ireland, pulling the strings. The influence of the wingers in Albrighton and Downing then became apparent as Villa patiently waited for their chance. This chance eventually came in the 35th minute after neat build up play in midfield saw the ball worked to Gabby Agbonlahor on the right. The striker’s left footed delivery into the box floated over an out of position Robert Huth leaving Stewart Downing to dispatch a superbly taken diving header.
From this moment the away side looked to push for a second before half time and their dominance forced a chance which may well have been the turning point. The ball was worked to Agbonlahor once more who again adopted a position wide, this time on the left wing. With seemingly no-one to aim at the striker picked out an inch perfect cross finding the late run of Ashley Young. Young was guilty of missing a free header from point blank range and the visitors were eventually made to pay for their slack finishing. James Collins had one final chance to put Villa two up but his snap shot was smartly stopped by former Villan Thomas Sorensen. Half Time and Villa were well on top.
The second half saw the emergence of Stoke manager Tony Pulis who had suffered a family bereavement and decided not to attend from the start. Clearly disappointed with his side’s efforts, Pulis came out for the second half to rapturous applause. Stoke, again started brightly forcing a number of set pieces, the majority of which the Villa back line coped admirably with. Villa looked comfortable and Stoke looked out of ideas. The turning point came when, the always dangerous, Ricardo Fuller was introduced. This sparked a Stoke revival and Villa began to soak up attack after attack. Villa’s first real lapses in concentration lead to the equaliser in the 80th minute. Last ditch tackles from centre halves Dunne and Collins appeared to have removed the danger but Stoke’s persistence paid off after Reo-Coker was drawn in to the ball leaving Etherington to burst down the left side from a Fuller pass. The winger played an excellent first time cross right onto the head of an unmarked Kenwyne Jones who dispatched his first goal of the season with aplomb.
Villa then had another chance to take the lead after good hold up play by Agbonlahor allowed him to release Reo-Coker in the box. The midfielder attempted to guide his shot into the bottom corner and saw his effort blocked by a lunging Danny Collins. 3 minutes of injury time were indicated and it was in the last of these that Stoke snatched a devastating winner. Former blue Jermaine Pennant had come on for his debut for the home side and cheated his way into winning a free kick inside the Villa half. Captain Stiliyan Petrov ran across the winger who conned the ref by going down with no contact whatsoever. Villa were again right to feel hard done by when the resulting free kick was taken ten yards further forward then the alleged foul. The ball was delivered and the Villa defence failed to clear with the ball finally falling to the feet of Etherington. His cross come shot was converted by Robert Huth to leave the Villa players, management and fans in absolute dismay.
Overall a good effort at an uncompromising venue which would have ended fairly at 1-1 were it not for a poor decision from the match officials and a cheating ex-Birmingham player. Doesn’t really come any worse than that!
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 7 – some smart stops, not at fault for either goal
Luke Young – 6 – steady and reliable, not as influential as last time out
James Collins – 7 – dominated aerially
Richard Dunne – 6 – strong in the most part, gave away too many free kicks
Stephen Warnock – 6 – solid and as ever worked tirelessly
Marc Albrighton – 7 – bright once more, always looks to run at defenders
Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – quiet, desperately unlucky in conceding decisive free kick
Nigel Reo-Coker – 8 – slight slip up but assured and strong in possession
Stewart Downing – 7 – much better, superbly taken goal
Ashley Young – 6 – subdued, worked hard but should have scored
Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – no chances but two excellent crosses
Emile Heskey – 5 – one touch of the ball failed to clear the box
- Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa – Prediction, Team News, Line-ups
- Huge Test for Emery – Aston Villa Predicted Lineup and Preview vs Tottenham Hotspur
- Aston Villa eye Europa Conference League success after impressive 2022-23 season
- Aston Villa forward Cameron Archer set to join Sheffield United in £18.5m deal
- Aston Villa in July: Four preseason fixtures as Emery aims for another excellent season
- Aston Villa make formal offer to sign Villarreal star Pau Torres
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Brighton & Hove Albion – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Aston Villa in April: Next seven Premier League fixtures
- Manchester City vs Aston Villa Preview – Prediction & Potential line-ups