2 ‘in form` teams met at Villa Park this weekend for what would undoubtedly be a ‘boring mid-table` game. The Villains came into this came off the back of 2 home wins against Norwich, and against title-chasers Chelsea. Meanwhile, Stoke had a strong record of only losing once since February, however they hadn`t won on the road since a victory against West Ham in August. Aston Villa had pretty much a full squad to their disposal, while Stoke had lost Charlie Adam and Jon Walters through suspension, and Stephen Ireland as part of an agreement that took place on his permanant arrival in the Potteries.
As the game started, the home side looked the better of the two teams, playing some nice football around the pitch and looking to show Stoke a difficult time. This culminated in Aston Villa taking a 5th minute lead through Christian Benteke. The giant Belgian struck home sweetly for inside the box to beat Begovic at his near post. The goal was made by in-form Fabian Delph, who`s run down the wing tore the Stoke defence up, before playing it back to the unmarked Benteke.
Unfortunately for Villa, that was their only spell of real domination in the game, because the rest of the game absolutely belonged to Stoke. Peter Odemwingie had come close for the Potters early on with a fizzing effort from 20 yards which was inches over the bar, but he got his reward for his persistence on the 22nd minute. Odemwingie linked up with Crouch well, as Crouch used his strength to play the ball through to his fellow striker, and with the Nigerian 1 on 1 with Brad Guzan, he calmly slotted home to net a superb equaliser.
4 minutes later, the turnaround was complete as Peter Crouch got an equaliser after a Barcelona-esque passage of play from the visitors. 19 passes were made between the Stoke squad leading up to the goal, and it was really made by Austrian Marko Arnautovic, who in my eyes had his best game for the club. A cheeky backheel saw him find Erik Pieters, who located Crouch beautifully to allow the talismanic striker to slot home a simple finish.
Stoke`s domination persisted through the first half, and the game was effectively over by half time as Stoke added an impressive third. Again, Marko Arnautovic was all over this goal, as the ball was played out to him on the wing, and he easily took the ball past the lacklustre Bacuna. His through ball was a bit of a miskick, but it still somehow found Steven Nzonzi of all people, to absolutely hammer home from just inside the box. The came was effectively over unless Villa made some drastic changes to their play at half time.
The second half flew through, and Villa`s changes were unfortunately, working even less. The only real shout they had in the second 45 were a possible penalty shout, which was denied by Mark Clattenburg, and it actually led to the Belgian being booked for a barrage of abuse that he threw at the official. That was effectively it for Aston Villa, as Stoke continued their domination. Odemwingie could have had a second as he fizzed a ball at Guzan from the wing, with the ball rapidly moving in the air, but the American goalkeeper made a brilliant save.
The Potters wrapped the game up in style on the 90th minute, with another great footballing goal. The ball was ran down the wing by, of course, Marko Arnautovic, who slotted the ball in to Geoff Cameron in the box who had what seemed the the freedom of Villa Park to pick his spot and place the ball into the corner. 1-4 it stayed until the end, for a very famous Stoke City win, and after watching the game again and again, Hughes` evolution of the squad is taking place, and taking place extremely well.