Dean Smith’s Aston Villa twice came back from losing positions to claim a point in difficult conditions at Villa Park. Game-changing substitute Jonathan Kodjia won a penalty before clinching a second goal for the hosts five minutes from time.
The injured Jack Grealish was replaced by Glenn Whelan. His creativity in the final third was certainly a loss for a Villa side who struggled to impose themselves on the away side.
Instead, Stoke relished the challenge for claiming the first points at Villa Park since Smith took charge at Villa. On the 20th minute, Tom Ince found space on the right flank before cutting back towards Joe Allen. Orjan Nyland reacted well enough to turn around his near post.
Away side take the lead
Minutes later, James McClean forced another save from the Norwegian stopper as another cross came from Alan Hutton’s flank. The Scot later lost a 50/50 to McClean, who assisted Allen. Who this time converted past Nyland to give Stoke the advantage after the half-time break.
Since conceding, Smith chose to open the game up and attack with more numbers. Both Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn fighting to turn home a Hutton cross, the game plan almost paid off. Jack Butland however, gathered the ball to prevent El Ghazi from stabbing in an equaliser.
With an expansive game unravelling at Villa Park, the away side almost profited once more. Allen came within inches of replicating his opener. Ince raced down the right flank on the counter attack before the wide-man swept across to the former Swansea man.
Introduction of Kodjia
Kodjia, since losing his place to the inform EL Ghazi had a point to prove to Smith, whose seeing the rewards of strong competition on the flanks. The Ivorian won a penalty after clumsy defending form Eric Pieters. Tammy Abraham took the ball and converted coolly to equal the scores on the 73rd minute.
Naive defending became a theme of the afternoon, with Ahmed Elmohamady letting McClean move into the box too easily. In an attempt to make up for his error, the Egyptian international brought his man down. Benik Afobe dispatched the spot kick with enough precision to put his side back into the lead.
Yet, with the quality and belief, Smith has given to a side capable of scoring at any time, Villa got back on level terms with five minutes remaining. Yannick Bolasie’s delivery from the right wing was good enough for Kodjia to ghost into the six yard box and head across Butland’s goal.
After a gruelling winter schedule, Villa will now look to end a tough run of games on a high, as they entertain Leeds United on Sunday.