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Aston Villa edged another point clear of the relegation zone with a hard-fought draw at home to in-form Stoke City. The Potters extended their unbeaten run to six matches despite the late sending-off of defender Ryan Shotton, who was shown a second yellow card by referee Roger East following a foul on Villa substitute Fabian Delph.
Villa striker Darren Bent came off the substitutes’ bench to make his first appearance in nearly six weeks as a youthful home side stood up to the physical challenge presented by Stoke. The hosts began brightly and Gabriel Agbonlahor picked out the run of Christian Benteke into the Stoke box, but Shotton was alert to the situation. Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross denied Villa when he blocked Benteke's close-range volley after Ciaran Clark had headed the ball back across goal.
Full-back Matthew Lowton then cut inside but his left-footed drive did not extend Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Bannan curled a free-kick over the bar after Benteke had been brought down by Geoff Cameron, before the Belgium striker had another effort blocked from Brett Holman's low ball.
Villa started the second half brightly and Begovic went down to his left to cling on to Benteke's volley from Lowton’s flick. Villa’s top scorer continued to ask questions of Stoke and some trickery inside the area created half a chance, but Huth reacted quickly to block his shot on the turn.
Lambert brought on Bent and Stephen Ireland for Agbonlahor and Holman midway through the second half while Stoke replaced Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones with Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch.
Shotton became the first player to be yellow-carded after 75 minutes after fouling Ireland. Then came his stoppage-time red card, although there was no time left for Villa to cash in on their numerical advantage. The draw means Villa are now unbeaten in four matches. Stoke have taken 14 points from their last six games, and have now registered eight clean sheets this season.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "I want to win, it's as simple as that, and on another day we might have got one or two goals and restricted Stoke to one real chance. It [the goals tally] is something I'm not actually overly worried about because I know it will come.
"We dominated the game. I was delighted with the way we coped with Stoke's strength. I was asked yesterday how we would combat that, and we used our strengths by playing football. We were excellent. Some of the football we're playing has been very good. We just need the finishing touch."
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis: "Two local derbies away from home, four points and two clean sheets. That’s a great tribute to the effort and commitment of the players.
"Our supporters should be immensely proud of what they have achieved in those games because it is no mean feat to come away with two outstanding results. When you look at the way Villa have performed recently against some top teams here, then people shouldn’t underestimate what we’ve achieved today.
"We kept the ball well in the middle third of the pitch and the only downside was that we didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked. Having said that, we looked at our most dangerous in the last quarter of the game when we brought on Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome, and if there was one side going to win the game at that stage, then it was going to be us. "
|15 Dec 2012||v Liverpool (A)|
|23 Dec 2012||v Chelsea (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Spurs (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Wigan (H)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Southampton (H)|