Lack of creativity shows for Villa as they fail to break down well organised Stoke City team who appeared content with point from the start but showed how dangerous set pieces are
The home side controlled the game for large periods but were unable to break down their obdurate opponents who appeared content to find inspiration purely from their set pieces.
Stoke went ahead after a series of set pieces put Villa on the back foot and finally Kenwyne Jones headed passed Brad Friedel from a Rory Delap throw in.
Villa replied just before half time as a Kyle Walker header found Darren Bent 12 yards out and the England striker expertly found the corner of the net.
Stoke looked to keep it tight early on as Villa had most of the possession and looked the more threatening of the two teams. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing in particular seeing much of the ball on the wings.
Had Nigel Reo-Coker’s touch been better in the opening moments of the game he could have put the home side ahead.
Despite Villa’s early domination it was Stoke who nearly went ahead first from a half volley on the edge of the area which Friedel tipped over. Then from the resultant corner Jones leapt ahead of everyone and powered his header towards goal only to be stopped by a superb save from Friedel.
Encouraged by this, Stoke pressured Friedel and his defenders winning seven corners inside five minutes. The cheers from the home faithful as the last corner was cleared showed just how much pressure they had been put under.
Stoke’s set-piece pressure finally told in the 20th minute as a long throw from Rory Delap was met by Jones who directed his header perfectly into the top corner.
Villa continued to try and press, looking for space out wide but far too often they were wasteful with their final ball, particularly Luke Young who consistently over hit his crosses straight to Asmir Begovic.
Despite controlling the game for long periods the home side found it difficult to break through Stoke’s defences, however Bent finally saw half a chance with ten minutes left in the half. Stiliyan Petrov drove into the box and played a wonderful through ball but Bent’s first touch was poor and allowed Ryan Shawcross to get back brilliantly to stop Bent in his tracks.
The groans of discontent from the home fans became louder and louder as the first half wore on and Gary McAllister cut an increasingly frustrated figure as his team flattered to deceive.
The groans turned into cheers in the 43rd minute as Bent did exactly what he does best to equalise for Villa. Walker was given too much space on the right hand side and his cross wasn’t the best but Bent managed to turn the ball with his head onto the post and in from 12 yards out.
Villa came put for the second half full of vim and vigour and tried to take the game to their opponents, even affording a rare foray into enemy territory for Richard Dunne who very nearly expertly found Bent in behind the defence.
Stoke were up against it and appeared there for the taking as McAllister urged his men forward time and time again. Stoke had a tough time holding onto ball but defended stoutly to stop Villa in their tracks.
In desperate need of inspiration, McAllister threw on Marc Albrighton to replace Downing and the winger almost had an immediate impact. After a goal mouth scramble his strike looked to have hit the hand of the Stoke defender close by but no penalty was given.
A minute later, Reo-Coker drove into the Stoke half and provided a cutting ball towards Heskey but the former England striker’s touch was poor and he wasn’t able to get a shot away.
Stoke thought they had won it against the run of play in the closing minutes as Ricardo Fuller filed the ball in but he was rightly ruled out for offside.
Villa continued to pile on the pressure but couldn't find a way passed the FA Cup finalists who had to deal with the final few minutes without Fuller who looked to have a suffered a serious knee injury.