Villa,the pundits argue,are the team most likely to challenge the'Big Four'clubs this season....Stoke are the team most likely to go down.The former may indeed be true,but on today's showing The Potters did not look relegation material.
Tony Pulis rang the changes following the Bolton defeat,five players who started last week's match finding themselves on the subs bench today.The team had a solid look to it.
Stoke took the lead through a Lawrence penalty (30) after ref Mark Halsey judged Delap to have been fouled by Laursen.We continued to look good value for our lead for the remainder of the half,with Villa playing below par.
Manager O'Neill clearly had plenty to say during the break,with the result that Villa looked sharper and far more threatening in the second half.They deservedly equalised on 63 minutes when a well worked move set Carew free in the Stoke box to deliver with a powerful shot across keeper Sorensen into the corner of the net.
With ten minutes to go the Stoke midfield were gifted the ball by Gareth Barry..Liam Lawrence thread the ball to Ricardo Fuller who,with a deft flick,and turn accelerated away from his marker Laursen,before shooting across Friedel's despairing dive into the far corner of the net (80).A brilliant piece of individual skill this,which sent The Brit into wild celebration.
Big question...could we hold out? Quickly answered when Laursen netted (84) following a free kick routine which looked rather clumsy!
Many in the crowd were at this stage happy to settle for a point.The players clearly were not.All afternoon the Villa defence had difficulty coping with Rory Delap's long throw in to the penalty area.With his final throw in the 94th minute Stoke hit the jackpot.The ball found sub Mama Sidibe,who headed the ball on into the net,to trigger tumultuous celebration which lasted well beyond the final whistle.
Another great day to be a Stokie!!