Ahead of this afternoon’s final pre-season game, Lambert made two changes from last weekend’s win at Shamrock Rovers – with Okore and Delph replacing Baker and Westwood in the starting line-up.
Malaga threatened first when Pawlowski arrived on Luna’s blind-side, dipping his volley just over Guzan’s crossbar.
The new partnership of Okore and Vlaar were let off the hook when Roque Santa Cruz, a former Premier League player, fluffed his shot after Vlaar’s sliced clearance had let him in.
Despite early defensive lapses, Lambert’s Lions showed their attacking arsenal once again when Benteke scored his sixth goal of the pre-season campaign after 12 minutes, bulldozing two defenders, rounding the keeper and coolly rolling the ball into the net.
The 19th minute was marked by the now customary applause for Stan, even though many Villans, including Lambert, feel it’s time to draw the applause to an end as Stan has ‘won’ his battle.
A mere minute later, the claret and blue army had more reason to cheer as captain Vlaar atoned for his earlier error by heading home from Tonev’s inswinging corner to put the home side 2-0 up.
Tonev, clearly showing his ability to use both feet, burst through the opposition in the 31st minute and passed through to Benteke, who was subsequently tripped by Angeleri. Referee Martin Atkinson wasted no time in awarding the penalty. Benteke stepped up to the spot and sent Cabellero the wrong way, caressing his penalty into the centre of the net before celebrating in his trademark fashion.
Just before the break, some of the shine was taken off Okore’s Villa Park debut when he deflected the ball into his own net after Pawlowski crossed from the byline.
It was the visitors who started the second half more brightly, with Pawlowski looking particularly potent. He forced a decent save from Guzan and then clipped the post before his team-mate Darder beat the American with a looping ball from 18 yards out just after the hour mark.
The visitors’ second goal seemed to shake the home side and spurred the La Liga team on, as they pushed for an equaliser. Pawlowski remained a threat and Luna had to recover quickly from his error that let the Malaga winger burst clear with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The boys in claret and blue offered no real threat in the final 45 minutes but managed to hold on to the lead to end their busy pre-season campaign with a win.
Next stop: The Emirates…