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Aston Villa went to Britannia today looking to snag a tough victory from Stoke. Three points would pull the club out of the relegation zone and be a huge boost as the season starts to wrap up. Well, in the ninth minute, Gabriel Agbonlahor gave Aston Villa fans hope with a sure-footed goal.
It wasn't the prettiest thing ever, but some nifty footwork from Gabby made sure he didn't bungle the opportunity. The goal was Gabby's 60th in the EPL for Villa, tying him with Dwight Yorke for the club's top spot in that category. Congrats on that speed-freak!
After that, Villa dominated most of the first half, but missed several opportunities to increase their lead. This of course led us all to panic that the second half would be an unmitigated disaster. While no more goals were scored, we did get to see Brad Guzan work on his telekinesis when he went a goal kick a bit further wide than he wanted:
Enough frivolous humor though. Let's get to the second half. Villa came out and, shockingly, didn't seem to totally give up. Nevertheless, in the 80th minute, the defense messed up and allowed Michael Kightly to bring Stoke even:
With the Britannia at full-voice, it seemed that the best Villa could hope for was a draw at this point. And play in the last ten minutes went rapidly back and forth, with both teams trying to get the lead. Despite some chances for Stoke, it was Villa who struck next. Matthew Lowton corralled a cleared corner from about 25-30 yards out and fired in a shot that is undoubtedly a goal-of-the-season candidate.
Have a look at that from a better angle:
There's not too much I can add. Just one of the best goals we've seen in ages for Aston Villa. Perfectly controlled and even more perfectly shot. Lowton went on to add a fantastic celebration:
While it seemed likely that Villa could hang on for all three points, Christian Benteke hammered home the last nail in the 90th minute with an unopposed run from midfield that resulted in a ball buried in the back of the net:
Villa would do no more damage but the three goals were plenty. They now have 33 points, three clear of the drop. Meanwhile, Stoke have only 34 points and suddenly find themselves very much in the relegation battle with a match against Manchester United next weekend. Villa will take on Fulham.
But before we start looking ahead, I think we should all celebrate today's massive victory. Brad, how do you feel about the win?
Up the Villa!