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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 23 June, 2018


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Welcome to the fourth game of the day. Admittedly, this may not seem the most enticing: a miserable Aston Villa side against a miserly Stoke City. But there is a lot at stake. At home against a bottom-half side: if Villa can’t win this then questions really have to be asked. They might well be sucked into it.

The teams:

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Collins, Baker, Lichaj, Bannan, Ireland, Herd, Warnock, Weimann, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, N’Zogbia, Heskey, Cuellar, Johnson, Gardner, Carruthers.

Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Delap, Palacios, Whitehead, Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs: Sorensen, Fuller, Pennant, Upson, Crouch, Jerome, Woodgate.

Referee: Mike Dean

And we’re off…

Jon Walters: the only man to start every single Premier League fixture for Stoke this season. In that case, perhaps lucky he’s only an impact sub for Ireland. he could well be shattered for the Euros.

As you might expect, an abrasive start. Stephen Warnock gets an early booking for an aggressive tackle: set-piece chance for Stoke. It is sent towards Roberty Huth but he can’t get any kind of meaningful connection on it.

Bit of banter on the sidelines between Rory Delap and the Villa fans, as he dried the ball and prepares to launch it into the box. Other than that, those supporters haven’t had too much to smile about so far. Stoke well on top.

There’s this game summed up: Agbonlahor tries to evade Palacios just inside the Stoke half only to be unceremoniously be bundled to the ground.

Corner for Villa which James Collins heads into Begovic’s hands.

We’ve reached the 19th minute of the game, so Villa begin their minute’s applause for their own number-19 Stilian Petrov.

Should be noted, too, that the visiting Stoke fans of course joined in in that applause for Petrov.

GOAL! Aston Villa 1-0 Stoke City

It’s been a day for delightful goals and that was another! The highly rated Andreas Weimann curls in a beauty from the edge of the D for Villa. The looping trajectory of the ball made it all the more delightful.

Here’s a Delap throw-in, but Villa managed to clear. Stoke still marginally the better side despite the score. it’s not been vintage but it has probably been better than many anticipated.

Almost the equaliser for Stoke there as Jones beats the Villa centre-halves and Given to almost not home before Jon Walters then heads inches over from the ball back in.

That’s half-time. Even enough. The game has accelerated a bit, too, in the last 20.

The second half is under way.

Not the most riproaring football so far in the second half. There have been a lot of long balls.

Huth meets a corner – of course – but his header is just wide. Collins did well to put him off, should be said. Huth got the winner against Villa at the Brittania last season. Seems to fancy himself to equalise here.

Stoke huffing and puffing to find their way back into this. Villa have been resolute though. Remember, a win – with just five games to go after this – would surely keep them clear of relegation trouble.

GOAL! Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City

What did we say about Robert Huth!? This time he rises well above Collins to head home from Etherington’s free-kick. There was an inevitability about that, if not about Stoke’s general attacking. Anxieties grow for Villa again.

As Villa need the victory, McLeish finally gambles and brings on N’Zogbia for Bannan.

Pulis making a very attacking substitution, Ricardo Fuller on for Palacios. Just positionally mind. Fuller hasn’t scored in this division in over a year.

The game has really opened up, with both teams now looking for the win. Of course, it’s Villa who need it more but it’s Stoke who look likelier to get it.

Not pleasant scenes at the moment as there’s been a clash of heads between Herd and Huth, leaving the young Villa man on the ground. A stretcher was brought on but he looks to finally be back on his feet, at the very least.

Herd’s on the stretcher holding his head. He’s applauded off. he did lift up his head though, which is a good sign. Heskey comes on for him, with three minutes of normal time left.

Weimann shoots at goal with his effort wickedly deflected but Begovic easily collects. The ball is pumped back up the pitch…

Stoke have the ball in the net from – you guessed it – a set-piece and a Shawcross effort but the referee rules that Pennant’s corner had actually swerved out of play.

Oh and that looked like an opening for Weimann. Thanks to a sharp run he seemed to have put himself in a perfect position to shoot but he lost his footing before then taking a touch too many.

Five minutes of stoppage time…

FULL-TIME. And that’s it. There is no grand-stand finish from Villa. Given that they wee ahead and it’s a home game against a team in the bottom half, it is not a great result and still leaves an uncertainty. You sense Villa will probably just about stay safe but there is still a danger they could belatedly get sucked into it.