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    Aston Villa 0-1 Stoke City

    by Conall Green

    Stoke City left Villa Park with all 3 points after a second-half Marko Arnautovic goal was enough to defeat Aston Villa.

    The Austrian winger coolly finished after 55 minutes as the Villa defence were guilty of affording him too much space in the penalty area. It was Stoke’s first away league win since February, which also came at Villa Park.

    The Potter’s made one change to last weekend’s line up, with scorer of the winning goal against Bournemouth, Mame Biram Diouf, replacing the injured Xherdan Shaqiri.

    Villa boss Tim Sherwood made two changes in personnel, with Carlos Sanchez and Jack Grealish dropping out. They were replaced by Jordan Veretout and Spanish full-back Jose Angel Crespo, who was making his debut after struggling with injury since joining from Cordoba in the summer. Sherwood also changed formation, switching to 3-5-2 as he attempted to arrest his side’s poor form.

    Stoke started the game better than their hosts, and could have been ahead after 3 minutes after a fine, flowing move. Jonathan Walters flicked a clever through ball to Diouf, who was denied by an excellent diving block by Micah Richards.

    The next meaningful action came after 18 minutes, with Charlie Adam attempting to replicate his wonder goal against Chelsea last season. With nothing much on in front of him, Adam let fly from all of 60 yards and his effort almost caught out Brad Guzan, but the American got back in time to tip the ball around the upright and spare his blushes.

    Stoke thought they had taken the lead after 35 minutes when Arnautovic had the ball in the net after a right wing cross. He was adjudged by the officials to be offside, with replays suggesting he was probably level and that the goal ought to have stood.

    The home side had a half-hearted penalty appeal rejected four minutes later, going down under a clumsy challenge inside the area after a driving run, but the referee was uninterested and play continued.

    With the score at 0-0 at the interval, Sherwood replaced Joleon Lescott with Jack Grealish and reverted to 4-4-2.

    The change did not work however, and 10 minutes into the second half Villa were behind. Glen Johnson’s through ball found Arnautovic with the freedom of the Villa penalty area, and he steadied himself before side-footing the ball past Guzan via the inside of the post.

    Villa should have levelled immediately. After taking a short free-kick, Ashley Westwood found Micah Richards unmarked 6 yards from goal, but the defender was unable to hit the target with his free header. A shocking miss by the central defender.
    It was to be as close as Villa would get to an equaliser, and despite bringing on Jordan Ayew and Carles Gil, Villa never really threatened.

    Villa were booed off at the end, and despite having 56% of possession, and 13 shots, they were only able to call opposition ‘keeper Jack Butland into action on 2 occasions. It means that Villa have collected only 71 points from 74 home games since December 2011, and with struggling Champions Chelsea up next at Stamford Bridge, Tim Sherwood will feel the pressure building with his team languishing in the relegation zone

    For Mark Hughes and his Stoke side, things are looking a lot brighter than they were a few weeks ago, and are now unbeaten in 4 games in all competitions, including 3 consecutive wins .

    Man of the match: Marko Arnautovic. His goal settled the game, and he troubled Alan Hutton all day long.
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    Item Reviewed: Aston Villa 0-1 Stoke City Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Conall Green
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