Ref blunder costs Villa
Ex Blue cheats and Villa take a dive It was de ja vous for Villa as they went down to a late strike at Stoke for the second time in 3 seasons. Robert Huth's controversial strike sent Villa home still looking for away points. The first 22 minutes of the match were about as exciting as a U.N. conference. It had the feel of last season's encounter with Sunderland, complete with Kenwyne Jones, who this time around was more than half decent. It was Jones, who should have scored first, in the 11th minute, but his shot was blocked to safety by Friedel's arm. There was a frenzied 3 minutes starting in the 23rd minute. Villa could have easily been awarded a penalty when Petrov was felled in the box as Downing waited to take a corner. Moments later Jones was given a free header in the box and then had a looping shot that Friedel pushed to safety. Downing then saw his shot deflected wide as the game went end to end. After that, Villa settled and began to play nice football in the Stoke City 3rd of the field. Villa's dominant spell was rewarded with a goal. Lovely work, with Nigel Reo Coker linking up with Petrov, Albrighton and Luke Young whose cross was met on the far post by an unmarked stooping Downing who met the ball with his head for a rare type of goal for the winger. The Villa fans were so non-plussed by Downing scoring that they sang Gabby's name out in celebration. Stoke were on the attack immediately and had huge shouts for a penalty when Collins handled in the area. It was obviously accidental and besides Jones was hanging on him. Villa should have scored again with another unlikely head as Young nodded Agbonlahor's cross inches wide. Collins had a shot thwarted by Sorensen and Downing saw another cheeky shot palmed away by the former Villa man. Then in stoppage time Albrighton's cross was met by nobody with the goal gaping. Stoke came out in the second half with fire and Villa had to absorb some pressure. Friedel palmed away another header from Jones. Villa again tried to play in the Stoke third, but were doing it less frequently, but were effective when they were patient. Fuller came on for the weak Walters, who suddenly played like a man possessed when he saw Fuller was coming on. The referee who had made some very odd decisions, like failing to book Delap for a professional foul, had the away fans and Petrov scratching their heads after Petrov was pulled, tripped and kicked, then penalised in one fast movement. Stoke's next change altered the course of the match. Pennant's introduction created space for both teams. Villa's forwards and Stoke's midfield benefitted the most. It was this space that almost caused embarressment for Stoke, Reo-Coker ran onto Young's pass and Stoke scrambled it to safety. Albrighton brought a good save from Sorensen then in the 80th minute Jones headed in the equaliser. Nice work down the left and Reo-Coker failed to pick up Etherington whose cross picked out Jones at the far post. Two minutes later Stoke almost took the lead from their big number 9 again from the inevitable Delap throw in. Reo Coker should have made amends but his shot was side footed and would never beat Collins. Fuller brought a superb save from Freidel. The game was slipping from Villa's grasp, but the bucket they were standing precariously on was kicked away by the referee, who was completely fooled by the cheating ex City Pennant who threw himself down as Petrov moved out of his way. We all know where he learned that move, though, don't we? Yes, at Liverpool. Again Reo-Coker only sidefooted the ball away after a scramble from the free-kick and the ball moved to the left of the box and a shot was turned in by Huth with virtually the last kick of the ball. Villa's tactical failings in the second half are the real culprits though as Villa slump again with only 2 wins in Stoke in 11 visits.
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