Aston Villa made two changes to the side that should have won last week. Grealish and Taylor picked up injuries and did not make the squad. Glenn Whelan replaced Jack in the midfield — pushing McGinn and Hourihane a little higher up the pitch. Elmohamady slotted in at right back — pushing Alan Hutton over to the left. Keinan Davis and James Bree (who are apparently alive) made rare appearances on the bench.
The lineup logistics over with — on to the match!!
Villa started on the attack right away — neither of the two early crosses ended up leading to chances but within two mins Villa showed their intent to play the ball wide and cross into the box. Villa were comfortable on the ball — but Stoke made the first chance off a set piece (to no one’s surprise). The free kick was sent to the far post — where there was a man totally unmarked. Nyland did his job though — guarding his near post once the ball was crossed.
Only a few minutes later Nyland again had to come up big with — once again — a man was unmarked on the far post. The Stoke player hit the cross on the volley and Nyland did enough to keep the clean sheet going.
But this is Aston Villa so two good saves means it is time for a screw up! And Villa did not disappoint. Nyland came all the way out for the corner of the box to collect but then Tuanzebe flicked the ball away from the keeper. Clearly what we had was a lack of communication. In the end Tuanzebe earned a foul and the blushes were spared.
Conor Hourihane had the next chance for Villa coming from a free kick in a great spot. The Irishman kept the shot on target but Butland pushed it out for a corner. Villa failed to capitalize on the set piece.
Right on the edge of the halftime Stoke showed their counter attacking ability break Villa open with a few quick passes. Thankfully for the home team the shot in the end was weak and easily caught by Nyland. The halftime whistle blew as fans scrambled out of their seats in hopes of finding a warmer spot.
90 seconds into the second half — Villa fans wish they had stayed away. Alan Hutton fails to clear the ball on the left. Stoke pulls a pass back to the top of the box and Joe Allen put it into the net with a quality finish.
Villa got their first chance from open play about ten minutes into the half. Tammy Abraham controlled the ball well with his feet at the top of the box. He turned into space and fired the ball on target. Too bad it was right at the keeper.
Yannick Bolasie nearly tied it up after an excellent bit of passing and movement. He got the ball back near the penalty spot but fired the ball wide to his left. Much like the rest of the squad things just did not seem to be working on the attack for the winger.
With 25 minutes to go Dean Smith went to his bench — sending Kodjia on for El Ghazi. The forward/winger made an impact right away getting the ball out wide and sending in a low cross that was cleared right out. It was nice to see Kodjia running and closing Stoke players down right from start of his appearance.
Kodjia had is back on a defender when a ball was rolled into him — he tried to turn letting the ball roll through. He obviously felt a tug and went down and the referee after a moment of hesitation pointed to the spot. Interestingly — it was not the man who earned the penalty who grabbed the ball — it was Tammy Abraham. In front of the Holte End the loanee made no mistake rolling the ball in the corner after the keeper dove the opposite direction.
But the 1-1 score did not last long with a penalty given to Stoke only minutes after Abraham’s. Elmohamady got beat to the inside — then compounded the mistake by committing a foal in the box. 100% penalty. Afobe put a perfect spot kick into the corner. Nyland guess right but the kick was too good to save.
The wild second half continued when with less than ten minutes to go Yannick Bolasie sent in a beautiful cross — the ball went over Abraham but Kodjia jumped up and nailed the header into the net. Once again the match was tied.
Dean Smith was not satisfied — sending on Scott Hogan for Glenn Whelan right after the goal.
Hogan ran for the rest of the match — chasing every Stoke defender down. The energy created a few chances — two of which fell to Hogan. But both times the forward could not get enough of the ball to do any damage. The rust was clear — but so was the intelligence running and positioning.
In the end Villa ran out of steam and the final whistle ended a wild second half. The result was probably a fair one. The midfield needs to adjust better without Grealish — and the fullbacks need to play better. Kodjia changed the match and deserves to be in consideration for a massive match against Leeds.
Well done to all the supporters who braved what looked like some miserable conditions.