Premier League – Stoke late show frustrates Villa

Eurosport

Aston Villa blew the chance to close the gap on third-placed Liverpool after they conceded two late goals to draw 2-2 at home to Stoke City in the Premier League.

Villa were 2-0 up with three minutes remaining thanks to goals from Stiliyan Petrov and John Carew.

But Ryan Shawcross (pictured centre) and Glenn Whelan struck to earn Tony Pulis’s men a point that could be vital in the relegation shake-up at the end of the season.

The point means Villa are six points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, while Stoke – who have robbed Martin O’Neill’s side of five points now this season – stay second bottom, behind Blackburn and Middlesbrough on goal difference.

A goalkeeping error by former Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen and a wonder-goal by Carew seemed to have been enough for the hosts, who dominated possession and created the lion’s share of the chances.

Sorensen allowed Petrov to put the hosts in front on 44 minutes when he flapped at a routine shot.

Second-half substitute Carew extended the lead with 11 minutes remaining with a delightful looping chip from the edge of the box.

In the first half, Stoke contributed next to nothing in terms of attacking football, preferring to sit deep in defence and play long whenever Villa lost the ball.

The hosts lacked their usual spark and struggled to create too many clear-cut opportunities, although several half-chances were dealt with by the muscular, tall Potters defence.

Danny Higginbotham cleared off the line when Gabriel Agbonlahor and Sorensen collided when trying to meet Luke Young‘s ninth-minute cross.

Ibrahima Sonko cleared from Agbonlahor after Gareth Barry replicated the move from the right, while Zat Knight headed over from close range after Stoke failed to fully clear the subsequent corner.

Villa generally get the ball wide and put in testing crosses for the likes of Emile Heskey and Agbonlahor to attack, and they are also a threat at set-pieces.

But with an average height of well over six foot, Pulis’s men are comfortable defending the aerial ball and gave Villa little room for manoeuvre in that respect.

So they changed tack and started to move through the middle, with short passing moves and off-the-ball running.

On 41 minutes Petrov put the ball wide after a smart turn on the edge of the area and soon afterwards the Bulgarian midfielder put his side in front.

A sweeping Villa move saw James Milner play the ball to Petrov, who was on the right-hand side of the Stoke penalty area.

He struck a looping, right-foot shot with decent power, but it was straight at Sorensen, who let the ball fly through his flapping arms and into the back of the net.

It was a dreadful error, although his replacement at half-time was probably as much to do with a knock picked up in the earlier clash with Agbonlahor.

If the first half was hard work, the second half was worse.

Villa barely created anything although the introduction of substitute Ricardo Fuller – returning after a shoulder injury – gave Stoke a bit more going forward.

The temperamental Jamaican striker had a penalty claim waved away when he burst into the box, but Young’s slide tackle was well timed.

He then sent an inventive volley just over after controlling the ball on his chest and turning in one movement.

Carew came on for Heskey, who appeared to be struggling with an injury, and the big Norway striker had an immediate impact.

Petrov played the ball to the former Valencia man and he clipped a first-time lob over replacement keeper Steve Simonsen and into the top left corner.

Strangely, conceding a second gave Stoke a boost.

Substitute Whelan hit the post with a low shot and, in the spell of pressure that followed, his side won a corner.

Villa failed to fully clear their lines and Whelan put a dipping cross over that big defender Shawcross – who had stayed up front after the set-piece – rose high to power a header into the bottom right.

And Whelan completed the fightback when, after Villa were unable to clear a long ball from Sonko, the Irishman drilled the loose ball past the diving Brad Friedel and into the bottom left to send the visiting fans wild.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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