Stoke came to Villa Park with 2 key players missing through suspension and another player, Stephen Ireland out due to an agreement of the transfer terms between the clubs. They were in good form after a couple of decent results lately and seemed to look confident as they passed the ball around well early on.
However, Stoke was not pressing the ball upfront, choosing to allow Villa to get to midfield before pressing. Stoke seemed a little slow on the ball in its passing and not quick enough to close Villa down allowing the home team too much time on the ball deep in its territory.
Good work between Bacuna and El Ahmadi saw an inside pass to Benteke, he slipped around a defender, fed Bertrand who slipped in Delph. Cameron tried to jump the pass and Delph slipped his man finding BENTEKE on the cut back who hammered the ball home.
It seemed all was well on the Villa ship and it was bound to cruise, but Stoke stepped up the tempo pushed Villa back and controlled the rest of the game.
Goals from Odemwingie, Crouch and N’zonzi before the break, then a last minute strike by Cameron gave Stoke a 4-1 away win, its first win at Villa Park since 1988.
Awful mistakes by Bacuna and Baker contributed to the goals. Bacuna in particular had a very torrid time and Lambert gave the lad no help at all in dealing with Stoke left winger Arnautovic who just toyed with him all game long.
BTW, Arnautovic is around the same age as Lamberts recent signings and cost 2 million pounds, the same price as a most of Lamberts recent signings, but he looks a class above any of them, even in recent games I’ve seen him play against Norwich and West Ham.
Villa had a bad blow when losing Weimann and El Ahmadi in 25 minutes to injuries, but was it really the bad? El Ahmadi was one mis-timed tackle away from a red after a thoughtless scissor tackle from behind on Crouch that could have been a straight red. Weimann looked so poor trying to keep up with left back Pieters (25, 3million quid) that he should have been subbed dead leg or not.
Replacements Sylla and Albrighton made no iota of difference. Just like the rest of the team couldn’t get past an opponent one on one and passing to get by them ended up being cut out invariably.
In the second half Villa began to get frustrated. Stoke are a physical side, one of the reasons along with the time wasting that fans across the country began despising them, under the Pulis regime, and indeed began the game with some overly hard challenges, Benteke and Weimann both were fouled in the opening seconds by Cameron and after El Ahmadi’s awful challenge, Palacious went in too hard and was booked, but Villa took it to a new level with some terrible second half fouls including one by Baker that thankfully completely missed his opponent but earned the lad a good talking to by Clattenburg.
Benteke and Bertrand threw themselves on the ground in weak attempts to win penalties and the fans began blaming the ref, not one of my favourites by any means, unfairly. Villa ended up with 5 bookings, which was a little like the game at Stoke when it seemed every player ended up in the book in a ten minute period.
The display, the poor tactics, the lack of discipline all contributed to this fan to be ashamed of the team. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you get a pounding, but to just lash out at players as some players did out there was just unforgivable.
There was an ironic cheer from the home support, the few that were left, when Bertrand hit a low shot easily smothered by Begovic, to let the team know they were not happy that the side had not bothered his goal since the 5th minute.
Villa may be safe, but barely and things can still change, but the fans cannot take much more of this and seeing another poor home outing will see less revenue come in for the club in its next home outing.
Man of the match for Villa, Delph, but not by much and if every player got a brilliant against Chelsea then everyone gets a dismal for this performance.