Andreas Weimann scored the only goal as Aston Villa beat Stoke City to get their Barclays Premier League campaign off to a winning start.
Villa, who kicked off last season with a 3-1 win at Arsenal, had to defend well in the early stages, but looked increasingly threatening as the match opened up. Weimann found the target five minutes into the second half, sweeping home a right-footed effort from inside the penalty area amid questionable Stoke defending to secure three points.
New Stoke signings Bojan Krkic and Mame Biram Diouf could not inspire a fightback for the home side at the Britannia Stadium, with Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan enjoying a relatively quiet second half. Stoke lost just three times at home last season, and Saturday's result represents their first opening-day defeat since 2010.
Mark Hughes handed Barclays Premier League debuts to Bojan, Diouf and Phil Bardsley, while full-back Alan Hutton was selected for Villa by manager Paul Lambert.
The Villa defence, which also featured Philippe Senderos for the first time, came under pressure early on, with Steven N'Zonzi sending a tame effort into the arms of goalkeeper Guzan before Bojan drilled wide of the left post.
N'Zonzi and Bardsley both required treatment after being caught by strong challenges during the first half, as new Villa assistant manager Roy Keane watched on from the dugout alongside Lambert.
Gabriel Agbonlahor could have done better when Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic rushed to the edge of his penalty area, but the striker diverted his shot wide of the target after receiving the ball from Kieran Richardson.
Bardsley saw a curling effort well saved by Guzan in the closing minutes of an open first half, before Stoke had to scramble the ball clear after Charles N'Zogbia had an effort blocked.
The home side were not so successful in clearing their lines five minutes into the second half, though, as the ball fell kindly to Weimann and he fired across Begovic into the back of the net to stun the home supporters.
Bardsley and Weimann had a coming together in the Villa box on the hour, but the Stoke defender's protestations for a penalty were ignored by referee Anthony Taylor.
Marko Arnautovic fired wide of the target as Stoke went in search of an equaliser, before Villa substitute Leandro Bacuna wasted a chance to put the result beyond doubt when he ballooned an effort over in the closing stages. However, Villa clung on to open their account for the new season with three points once again.
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: "We expected more. Credit to Villa. They came with a game plan and executed it well. We found it difficult to find the answers in terms of what we were trying to do. We were the better team in that first half, created more chances, had more opportunities and, with a little bit more care with the final pass, we could have got the first goal.
"It's always important to get the first goal, especially at Premier League level because it's huge. Unfortunately, Villa were able to do that. Disappointing because it happened just after half-time when we'd spoken about the importance of it.
"From that point onwards it became easier for Villa to see the game out because they got people behind the ball, worked hard and made it difficult for us in the final third to be able to create anything.
"It's a wake-up call because there was a lot of expectation and maybe that's been tempered somewhat. Maybe that's no bad thing because we know it's a season where we're going to have to work hard. As a group we've never denied that, but we need to be better than we were."
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We were outstanding today. We deserved to win the game after the initial 10-minute period. I don't like singling out individuals but, as a team, the back four were outstanding. [Aly] Cissokho, playing his first game for us, was outstanding, but I could go through every one of them. The whole team performance was excellent."
"Roy [Keane]'s been brilliant since he's been here and a massive help to myself and to the team. I'm pretty sure anyone that knows him or saw him play a game of football knows that he wants to win."
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|29 Sep 2014||v Newcastle (H)|