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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
8 December 2012
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: R. East
• Attendance: 30110
That's it from me, Al Hain-Cole. Thanks for being with us this afternoon. I can only apologise for the lack of goalmouth action. I did kind of warn you though...
For Tony Pulis, it is a sixth league game without defeat, and you sense that he will have relished the battle from the sidelines.
Nevertheless, Paul Lambert can take heart from a tenacious performance from his young team, who certainly stood up and were counted.
And that's it. The sending off is the last real action of a game short on quality. It certainly wasn't one for the purists, and you have to sympathise with the person tasked with putting together a highlight reel this evening.
90' + 4'
After letting plenty of meaty challenges go, Roger East has sent off Ryan Shotton for a second booking. The defender may have clipped Delph's heels, but there was no intent there and he is unfortunate.
90' + 3'
Yellow/Red Ryan Shotton
90' + 2'
Villa are loading the box now, but can't find a cross to trouble the Stoke defence.
90' + 2'
Villa are loading the box now, but can't find a cross to trouble the Stoke defence.
Jerome finds a bit of space on the right of the box, but is well tackled by Lichaj, who even wins the goal kick.
Lichaj slashes the ball wildly out for a throw when he should have done better in the box. There were plenty of men forward for Villa, and the American will be disappointed not to have made more of the opportunity.
Shotton crosses, Guzan collects. It is a familiar story.
Steven Ireland's cross-cum-shot flies over the bar from the right hand side of the box, but at least reminds Begovic that he is in a football match. The keepers have been largely untroubled for both sides today.
Darren Bent has not seen much action of late, and he still isn't despite having been on the pitch for about 15 minutes now. The striker is being starved of service.
Crouch is sent tumbling on the half-way line, and Huth's hoof into the box falls to Jerome. His lay-off finds Shotton, but his cross is headed away for what seems like the 100th time today. Cameron Jerome then amuses the home crowd by taking a shot that goes out for a throw-in. Embarrassing for a former Blue.
Lambert makes his final substitution, bringing on Fabien Delph in the place of Barry Bannan.
Former Villa man Peter Crouch is on for Kenwyne Jones, sporting an eye-catching mouth guard to protect his teeth that were damaged in the recent game against Newcastle.
Yellow Card Ryan Shotton
The yellow card is finally out, and it is for an innocuous foul by Ryan Shotton.
Shotton takes another long throw about 25 yards from goal, and the ball eventually falls to N'Zonzi, whose cut back finds nobody inside the six yard box.
Bent looks understandably up for this, and is putting himself about up front. He'll be crying out for anything to fall for him inside the penalty area, but chances are still in short supply.
Former Birmingham City man Cameron Jerome is now on in the place of Etherington, as Tony Pulis respnds to his opposite number's changes by also throwing two up top.
Lambert has decided to make a bold double substitution, bringing on Steven Ireland and the long-awaited Darren Bent, who receives a great reception from the home crowd. It is the striker's first appearance since October. Quite a time to prove a point for the England man.
Villa are dominating possession once again, but look a bit lost in the final third, up against a great wall of red and white.
Another long throw by Shotton, another good clearance by the Villa defence. How many times have I said that today?
Guzan finds Agbonlahor with an accurate long throw, urging his players on. After a few nice passes, Benteke almost finds space inside the box as he skips past a couple of defenders. His shot is scuffed though, under heavy pressure. Better from the hosts.
There has not really been an extended passage of passing in this second half, which has been perforated by free-kicks and stoppages.
Jones clatters into the back of Guzan as the keeper jumps to collect Shotton's deflected cross. The American keeper is not happy, and squares up to the big striker. Brave man.
Still no bookings here, but you can sense a tension bubbling under the surface inside the ground. The referee has a tough job on his hands.
It's hotting up now, as Lichaj smashes into the back of Ryan Shotton. He seemed wound up by an earlier challenge that the referee let go on Herd.
Shouts for a penalty from the Holte End as Agbonlahor goes down under a challenge from Shotton. There didn't seem to be any real contact though, as the forward takes an air shot.
Shawcross piles into a tackle on the half-way line, but escapes without a booking. Roger East obviously woke up on the lenient side of the bed this morning.
The midfielders are getting a good neck workout at the moment, as they watch the ball continuously being kicked over their heads from end to end.
Benteke with an early chance in the second half, as Lowton's header falls to him presentably inside the box. The Belgian's volley is side-footed and weak though, and Begovic gathers easily.
The play is back underway here, with the teams unchanged after the break.
There will be obvious question marks about whether Lambert will give Darren Bent a chance in the second half, but the Villains need to sort out their service to the frontmen if the clinical striker is to have any effect. With the current formation doing so well to nullify Stoke's game plan, Lambert may be reluctant to remove a midfielder for the rather static striker.
Tony Pulis will probably have got what he expected from his players, who have put in a characteristically hardy away performance so far. However, Villa's back five have done magnificently to quell the aerial threat that is usually the hallmark of the Potters performances, and the boss may want to consider introducing Peter Crouch to add another body into the mix.
Paul Lambert can take a lot of heart from the endeavour and bravery displayed by his young team against an experienced Stoke side. Not much for him to get too excited about going forward though.
And that's it for the first half, with the visiting players looking pretty angry as they walk down the tunnel. They clearly felt that Mr East should have done more about Clark's wild tackle there. It has been a hard-fought encounter so far, but lacking in quality in the final third.
45' + 2'
Ciaran Clark is clipped by Jones as he runs out of defence, and then launches himself into Whelan. The whistle has already gone though, luckily for the young centre-back. Stoke's players are not happy.
45' + 1'
Shotton has another long throw from all of 25 yards, but is again won in the air by a Villa defender. Nathan Baker this time. They are defending those situations very well so far.
Agbonlahor runs into space down the right but his cross is too long and goes out of play on the left touchline. Benteke is feeding on scraps here.
Villa miss the chance to break as Holman's pass to a marauding Eric Lichaj is overhit and runs out of play. Pity for Lambert's men.
Matthew Etherington has been unable to find much space on the left hand side for Stoke, and his latest cross is blocked by Lowton.
Christian Benteke is making excellent runs to occupy the Potters back four, but when he goes wide to pick up a pass there are no real options inside the penalty area for him to pull it back to.
A succession of heavy challenges from either side are allowed to pass by referee Roger East, who obviously understands the spirit of such a game between two hard-hitting teams.
Aston Villa have had 67% of the possession this afternoon, but like many sides facing SToke, have struggled to create any real chances.
Almost a chance for Villa after Holman gets to the by-line and pulls a ball back into the six-yard box, but is behind Benteke, who gives away a foul in trying to stretch for the ball.
Both sides are getting plenty of men back each time the opponent advances, and it is not making things easy for the attackers.
Stoke hit a long free-kick into the box from the half-way line, but it is headed away once again by a Villa defender. Ryan Shotton unleashes one of his dangerous long throws into a crowded penalty area, but the hosts scramble it clear.
It's pretty scrappy stuff here, with neither side really passing the ball with any fluidity.
Robert Huth goes hurtling into a tackle on the half-way line, as is slightly fortunate to get away with just a free-kick. Clumsy.
Despite their dominance, Villa have not really tested Begovic in the visitors' goal as yet.
Ryan Shotton is the latest Stoke player to fling the ball into the box from deep, but it is easily headed clear by Baker. Stoke are not having much luck at the moment.
Barry Bannan has a shot from 25 yards out from a free-kick which sails harmlessly over the bar. Waste.
Paul Lambert has laid his team out in a 3-5-2 formation this afternoon, and it is working perfectly so far. The wing-backs are getting forward beautifully and ther back three are easily containing any Stoke attacks.
Villa are certainly on top here, as Stoke struggle to get out of their own half. Kenwynne Jones looks isolated up front on his own.
Lowton has a shot after cutting in from the right of the box, but it's straight into the arms of Begovic. Promising stuff from VIlla though.
Chance for Benteke! The ball is blocked heroically after the Villa striker hits the ball on the volley inside the box from a corner. Great defending there.
The home fans aren't happy after Jonathan Walters smacks a drop ball into the stands rather than passing it back to Bradf Guzan in the Villa goal.
The big Belgian will have a tough afternoon against Stoke physically-imposing back four.
Benteke is already showing why he has been preferred to Darren Bent up front for the Villains, holding the ball up every time it falls to him and laying it off nicely to his team-mates.
Paul Lambert will certainly be encouraged by the start made by his young side here.
Agbonlahor looks hungry early on in this match, and he wins a free-kick after a nudge from Cameron wide on the right. Bannan's dangerous ball in is headed up and over the bar by Huth.
Villa win a corner after Lowton's cross is put behind on the far post, but it's cleared by Whelan.
Stoke start the game on the front foot, whipping an early ball into the box from deep that is easily cleared by the home defence.
And we're off!
Villa have won the toss and will defend the Holte End in the first half.
Villa captain Gabby Agbonlahor is leading the hosts through the handshakes, as kick-off draws tantalisingly close.
five of the last seven Premier League meetings between Aston Villa and Stoke have ended as draws, including three of the four played at Villa Park - and with only eight goals scored in the last six matches between Villa and Stoke, we probably shouldn't expect too much goalmouth action today.
Goal-shy Villa will be up against it today as they face the side which has kept more clean sheets than any other in the Premier League this season.
Tony Pulis’ side will be full of confidence after three wins on the spin, including an impressive 1-0 win away at high-flying West Brom last week.
Team News Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Baker, Clark, Lichaj; Holman, Westwood, Bannan, Herd; Agbonlahor, Benteke. Subs: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Williams, Delph, Bent. Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton; Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington, Whitehead; Jones, Walters. Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Upson, Kightly, Crouch, Wilkinson, Jerome.
The home side name an unchanged line-up from their recent draw with QPR whilst the big news in the Stoke starting line-up is that Kenywne Jones has a rare start following some impressive cameos of late.
Villa have not managed to win consecutive home matches within the same season in 28 months, while Stoke have only ever picked up back to back away wins once in the Premier League. Can either of these records be broken today?
Only the two Manchester clubs have beaten Aston Villa in their last seven games, while Stoke are currently enjoying a a five-match unbeaten streak, and will be looking to pick up their fourth successive league win this afternoon.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of Aston Villa versus Stoke City at Villa Park. I'm Al Hain-Cole and I'm sure we can look forward to a hard-fought encounter between these two sides.
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