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  • Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke: Jones, Bent great-header

    Caretaker Aston Villa boss Gary McAllister had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Stoke City at Villa Park in the Premier League in his first match in charge.
    The Potters made a bright start to the match and deserved their lead through Kenwyne Jones's header.

    Villa responded through Darren Bent just before the interval, but despite dominating the second half they failed to create scoring opportunities and were forced to take a single point against defensively-minded opponents.

    Both sides had moved themselves away from the relegation battle in the weeks leading up to this clash, but while the Potters were celebrating their first-ever FA Cup final appearance, Villa had been rocked by manager Gerard Houllier being hospitalised.

    McAllister, temporarily in charge in Houllier's absence, named an unchanged line-up from the side who beat West Ham United 2-1 at Upton Park last time out, while Stoke's only change came in the form of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic replacing Thomas Sorensen.

    Villa, fresh from back-to-back victories, started the sharper, pinging crisp passes across the field on a bright day in Birmingham.

    But it was Stoke who began to build the pressure, sparking an extraordinary sequence of seven corners in less than five minutes as their disciplined play began to bear fruit.

    Brad Friedel had to pull off a remarkable stop to keep out Jones' angled header having tipped a Robert Huth drive over the bar moments before.

    But though Aston Villa survived that passage of play, eventually Stoke got their opener through Jones.

    The Trinidadian leapt highest to a Rory Delap long throw, and glanced an accurate header into the corner of the goal.

    Villa looked shell-shocked by the goal, somewhat short of ideas as the away side maintained the pressure.

    Emile Heskey spurned a good chance with a free header close to the penalty spot, heading well wide when he should have hit the target.

    Just before the interval, though, Bent levelled with his seventh goal for Villa.

    The club's record signing has been instrumental in the race for Premier League survival, and he showed confidence and class to run between the two centre-halves and meet Kyle Walker's cross with a perfectly-placed header beyond Begovic.

    Villa seemed to take that momentum with them into the second half, as the disciplined Stoke disintegrated, giving the ball away repeatedly and inviting Villa forward.

    But chances were remarkably thin on the ground, with a lack of creativity undermining the home side's efforts.

    Stewart Downing made way for Marc Albrighton, who immediately added dynamism to Villa's attacks.

    A couple of corners from Ashley Young produced goalmouth scrambles, while Heskey was unable to turn Nigel Reo-Coker's low ball goalwards with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

    Tony Pulis threw on Ricardo Fuller for the final 15 minutes, and he caused palpitations for the Villa defence, putting the ball in the net shortly after his arrival only for the assistant referee to pull the play back for an offside.

    Fuller then had to leave the field injured in the dying minutes of the match, leaving the Potters with no outlet up front in stoppage time.

    But despite inviting further pressure, the toothless Villans could not test Begovic, and the point leaves both sides firmly entrenched in mid-table.
    Mark Patterson / Eurosport

    Team Line-up:

    Aston Villa: Friedel, Walker, Dunne, Collins, Luke Young, Downing, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Ashley Young, Bent, Heskey Subs: Marshall, Pires, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Makoun, Clark, Cuellar
    Stoke City: Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Pennant, Whelan, Delap, Etherington, Jones, Walters Subs: Sorensen, Collins, Fuller, Pugh, Diao, Whitehead, Faye


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