Tony Pulis makes second half appearance as home side bounce back...Robert Huth grabbed Stoke City all three points as the Potters beat Aston Villa 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium. Huth's 93rd minute winner and Kenwyne Jones' 80th minute header cancelled out Stewart Downing’s first half opener for Villa as Stoke grabbed their first win of the season.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis, who was not present for the first half following the death of his mother, made one change from the side beaten by Chelsea, with Marc Wilson making his debut at the expense of Andy Wilkinson following his deadline-day move from Portsmouth. New arrivals Jermaine Pennant and Eidur Gudjohnsen were on the bench for the clash.
Aston Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald again selected the starting line-up in the absence of new manager Gerard Houllier, who was attending an awards ceremony in France. MacDonald made one change from the side which beat Everton, handing Gabriel Agbonlahor his first Premier League start of the season in place of the injured John Carew.
Stoke started the game much more positively than their visitors with Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones going close in the opening minutes. The first clear sight of goal fell to Jones again in the 10th minute, the striker was found by fellow new signing Marc Wilson but Jones’ low shot was well saved by Brad Friedel.
The home side continued to press and in the 15th minute they came close again. Matthew Etherington curled a right wing free-kick into the penalty area towards the heads of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth and it was the former Chelsea man who reached the cross but he could only head the ball straight up in the air and Friedel was able to claim easily.
Villa’s first opportunity of the match came two minutes later through youngster Marc Albrighton. Agbonlahor held the ball up well on the edge of the penalty area before finding Nigel Reo-Coker who played the ball to his left to Albrighton, the midfielder stepped in from the left edge of the penalty box but struck a right-foot-shot over the bar without troubling Thomas Sorensen.
In the 25th minute the lively Jones again tested Friedel, this time from long range. The striker pulled down a long ball from Sorensen 25 yards from goal and fired a swerving left-foot shot towards goal but Friedel was able to save well down to his right.
Villa were beginning to get back into the game and in the 35th minute they made their pressure pay as Stewart Downing gave them the lead. Agbonlahor delivered a left-footed cross to the back post which was met by Downing diving at full length and he headed the ball into the bottom corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
Two minutes later the visitors survived a penalty shout from Stoke. A long throw from Rory Delap caused confusion in the Villa penalty area and from a header by Jones, the ball appeared to hit the arm of James Collins but referee Lee Probert waved away the home side’s protests.
With five minutes of the half left Villa began to pile the pressure onto the home side and created four excellent opportunities to double their lead. The first chance came in the 40th minute from another dangerous cross from Agbonlahor. This time the cross came in from the left-hand-side and found Ashley Young unmarked in the penalty area but the winger was unable to divert his header goalwards and the ball flew wide of the goal.
Three minutes later Villa created another chance as Downing delivered a low cross which wasn’t cleared fully by the Stoke defence. Reo-Coker challenged for the ball on the edge of the area and the loose ball fell into the path of James Collins but his shot was well saved by Sorensen.
And in the final minute of normal time another dangerous right-wing cross, this time from Albrighton, found Downing at the back post but the winger's sliding shot was clawed off the goal-line by Sorensen. Stephen Warnock got onto the loose ball but his shot was blocked for a corner.
Villa’s final chance of the half came in the second minute of injury-time, a neat corner routine by Downing and Ashley Young on the left wing enabled Young to get into the penalty area but there was no one there to touch home his low cross.
Stoke received a huge boost at half-time with the arrival of their manager Tony Pulis and his players nearly gave him the perfect reaction five minutes into the second half. A Matthew Etherington free-kick was met by Jones at the back post but his header was tipped over by Friedel.
Another long throw-in from Delap in the 56th minute caused further trouble for the Villa defence. Friedel was able to palm the ball clear but only into the path of Etherington, but the winger’s left-foot shot was blocked by Reo-Coker and Villa were able to clear the danger.
The second half was not as open as the first half and neither side really created many opportunities until the 68th minute when Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross nearly gifted Villa a second goal. The defender read a through ball from Ashley Young before it reached Reo-Coker, but then played a weak back pass towards his goalkeeper which enabled the Villa midfielder to get onto it and had Sorensen not been quick off the mark he would have doubled his side’s lead.
After putting plenty of pressure on the Villa defence Stoke were finally rewarded in the 80th minute as Kenwyne Jones scored his first goal since joining the club this summer. The home side worked hard to keep the ball alive during an attack and when substitute Ricardo Fuller played a ball into Etherington inside the penalty area, the winger was able to chip a cross onto the head of Jones who powered a header past Friedel and then celebrated with his customary acrobatic celebration.
Stoke were finishing the game much stronger than their opponents and in the 87th minute Fuller again caused problems in the Villa defence as he took on Collins before firing a left-foot shot towards goal but Friedel was able to tip the ball wide.
In the final minute of the match Stoke grabbed a dramatic winner through Huth. Etherington’s free-kick was not cleared and from a low left-wing cross, Huth poked the ball past Friedel to give the Potters their first win of the season.
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