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Villa Park (ATT 35,852) 19th December 2009 - Kick off 15:00 Ref: L Probert

A Villa Aston Villa vs Stoke City Stoke

A Villa 1

J Carew (61)

ft

Stoke 0

Villa grind out Stoke win

O'Neill's side come away with victory over Potters

By James Riach.   Last Updated: 19/12/09 5:32pm

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Carew: Scored the winner

Carew: Scored the winner

John Carew's second-half header was enough for Aston Villa as they earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Stoke.

Man of the match: James Milner takes the award - the midfielder was everywhere and he was at the heartbeat of every Villa attack. Goal of the match: Carew's winner was a lovely move. After a string of passes Ashley Young crossed with precise accuracy and the big Norwegian thundered his header into the net. Save of the match: Thomas Sorensen produced an excellent double save in the opening period, palming out a Petrov shot and denying Gabby Agbonlahor with the follow up. Moment of the match: The game would have been different had Mamady Sidibe's first half header been given, but the striker was deemed to have pushed Stephen Warnock. Talking point: Villa did not play fantastically but still picked up the three points - is that the sign of a team worthy of a top-four berth?

The Potters will feel aggrieved that they left Villa Park with nothing after a workmanlike performance that only lacked a cutting edge in the final third.

Indeed, Tony Pulis' men did have the ball in the back of the net in the opening period but Mamady Sidibe was adjudged to have climbed on Stephen Warnock at the back post.

The decision by referee Lee Probert to disallow the goal proved costly for Stoke and they were punished in the 61st minute as substitute Carew powered a header past the helpless Thomas Sorensen.

After a string of Villa passes, Ashley Young whipped in a great ball from the right and the big striker could not miss from close range to seal the win.

Martin O'Neill had voiced concern before the game about the unevenness of the midweek fixture list which had left Stoke without a game since their draw with Wigan eight days ago.

But his side showed the resilience needed to sustain a successful campaign with Richard Dunne and Carlos Cuellar outstanding at the heart of their defence.

Skipper Stiliyan Petrov was also a key performer in the centre of the park for the home side.

Stoke were far from overawed with Tuncay a threat up front but they have now gone four games without a win and will not want to be sucked into a relegation battle in the New Year.

Villa created the first real moment of danger after Stoke midfielder Salif Diao had brought down Ashley Young to the right of the box.

Danger

Stewart Downing's dipping free-kick found its way through to Dunne but he directed his header wide when he would have expected at least to hit the target.

There was a lack of intensity about proceedings but the game came to life with former Villa goalkeeper Sorensen making a fine double save.

First he beat out a powerful 20-yarder from Petrov after Heskey had set up the opening.

Then the former Denmark international quickly reacted to block the follow-up attempt from Gabriel Agbonlahor with his outstretched leg.

Sorensen also got his body behind a shot on the turn from Ashley Young after James Milner had threaded an excellent pass through the Stoke defence.

Villa suffered a setback when Heskey picked up a leg injury in a challenge with Danny Higginbotham and was replaced after 22 minutes by Carew.

Glenn Whelan was only just off target with a low drive while Sorensen was relieved to see a deflected Milner shot fly just wide of his goal after good play by Downing.

Sidibe headed home a cross from Matthew Etherington after 32 minutes but the Stoke striker was adjudged to have fouled Warnock when challenging for the ball.

Carew came close for the first time a minute later, deflecting a near post shot just wide after attacking an in-swinging centre from Ashley Young.

Improvement

There was little sign of an improvement in the general play after the break with Villa lacking their usual attacking potency.

Carew had half a chance when Ashley Young played the ball into the danger area but he hurried his shot which flew over Sorensen's crossbar.

Tuncay almost carved a goal out of nothing for the visitors after a mazy run inside the Villa area but the eventual angle became too acute and his shot flew across the six-yard box.

An Etherington centre was only half cleared and Whelan should have done better from 15 yards out as he blazed over the bar.

It proved to be costly for after 61 minutes when Carew put Villa ahead with his fifth goal of the campaign.

Ashley Young was the creator with his right-wing centre and Carew got in front of Abdoulaye Faye to head past Sorensen.

Stoke tried to retaliate and Luke Young produced a superb tackle on the edge of the six-yard box to deny Tuncay an equaliser.

Andy Wilkinson became the first player to be booked after 66 minutes for a challenge on Agbonlahor.

Etherington could have brought Stoke level but lashed his shot wide while Villa substitute Steve Sidwell was off target after Carew had set up the chance.

Aston VillaTeam StatisticsStoke City
1Goals0
01st Half Goals0
5Shots on Target0
9Shots off Target10
4Blocked Shots8
3Corners4
10Fouls16
0Offsides0
0Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
77.5Passing Success63.4
21Tackles22
76.2Tackles Success77.3
53Possession47
48.1Territorial Advantage51.9

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Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Chelsea 16 39
2 Manchester City 16 36
3 Manchester United 16 31
4 West Ham United 16 28
5 Southampton 16 26
6 Arsenal 16 26
7 Tottenham Hotspur 16 24
8 Newcastle United 16 23
9 Swansea City 16 22
10 Everton 16 21
11 Liverpool 16 21
12 Stoke City 16 19
13 Aston Villa 16 19
14 West Bromwich Albion 16 17
15 Sunderland 16 16
16 Crystal Palace 16 15
17 Burnley 16 15
18 Queens Park Rangers 16 14
19 Hull City 16 13
20 Leicester City 16 10

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