Aston Villa and Stoke City both edged closer to Premier League survival with a point each on Saturday.It was a classic game of two halves, with Stoke dominating early on and Villa eventually playing their way back into the match.
Darren Bent cancelled out Kenwyne Jones’ opener just before half-time and the home side perhaps deserved the win on the balance of play in the second half.
The visitors had all the early pressure, forcing a succession of corners, with only superb goalkeeping by Brad Friedel preventing them from taking a lead.
First Robert Huth picked up a loose ball after a trademark Rory Delap throw was only half cleared, but Friedel was alert to parry away the defender’s volley.
Then, from the resulting Matty Etherington corner, Jones’ goal-bound header was superbly clawed away by Friedel.
But the pressure finally paid off in the 20th minute when Stoke took the lead in familiar fashion with Jones rising highest to head home Delap’s long throw.
Villa struggled to cope with Stoke’s physical presence and it took half an hour for them to get into the game, even then only producing half chances for Luke Young who shot wide and Emile Heskey who headed over.
And when Bent did get into a scoring position, a last-ditch tackle from Ryan Shawcross denied him.
However, Bent grabbed the equaliser two minutes from half time, glancing a header from a Kyle Walker cross off the post and into the net.
The home side upped their game at the start of the second half. Stewart Downing had goalkeeper Asmir Begovic scrambling after his drive cannoned off Huth and out for a corner.
Then Heskey steered a low cross from Nigel Reo-Coker wide, before two substitutes combined, Gabby Agbonlahor heading Marc Albrighton’s cross into the ground and the arms of Begovic.
Stoke substitute Ricardo Fuller did have the ball in the net late on, but the striker was ruled offside as Jones passed to him.
And it was to get worse for Fuller as he was carried off on a stretcher forcing his side to play added time with only 10 men.