Picture from The Telegraph via Getty Images.
Maybe Tony Pulis was right.
Mamady Sidibe’s header gives Stoke City a shock 3-2 win at the Britannia Stadium.
If you heard me this week on The Third Half, I pretty much mocked the fact I pulled this game out of the hat to do as one of my two full match reviews. Next time I do that, I need to have the first rule of football tattooed across my first forehead…any side can win on the day.
Stoke City were everything you expected in a team that recently came up. They were scrappy, feisty and just about everything else in between. Above all, they were the most fortunate.
This game can’t be talked about unless we take a look at the two key decisions in the first half. Twenty seven minutes in, I was convinced Gabriel Agbonlahor should have been awarded a penalty. From my vantage point, Agbonlahor was simply pushed down. Despite the bodies in Mark Halsey’s has to be able to see it and call the penalty.
The other call comes just two minutes later. Rory Delap was the fortunate recipient of a little ping pong action in the penalty area. Martin Laursen stuck his leg out and was wise enough to at least pull it back. Delap though took full advantage and went over the leg, in the process being awarded a penalty. From the subsequent camera angles, I am still looking for the contact Laursen made with Delap and to me, it should be a yellow card for diving. However that wasn’t the case and Liam Lawrence gets his first goal in the top flight since his goal for Sunderland against Chelsea in 2006.
You knew Aston Villa was going to up the pressure in the second half and that they did. John Carew a key force in both Villa goals. The Villa equalizer thanks to Carew taking Ashley Young’s deft back heel and beating Sorensen one v one. The second thanks to Carew flicking onto Laursen off what was in honesty a poor free kick from Ashley Young.
However two performances for Aston Villa have to be called out to task, those of Martin Laursen and Gareth Barry. Laursen was a part of all three Stoke City goals and despite getting the second equalizer for Villa should have been subbed off immediately after getting it. I know he’s a key player at the back, but when you are having that poor of a day, you don’t need to be punishing the team based on how one is playing. Gareth Barry on the whole looked disinterested or fatigued from his England call up, I’m still trying to figure out which it is. However his touches were just that bad, a bad pass the catalysis for Stoke City pulling ahead 2-1. It was Barry’s missed sitter three minutes after pulling level at one though that told me how off his game he was.
However at the end of the day, it was Rory Delap’s long throwing ability that proved the ultimate difference. His long throw to Mamady Sidibe looked to be one that could be easily cleared. But both his markers mistimed their jumps and Sidibe was able to get the back of his neck to it (at least that’s what it looked like to me) and change the direction on it just enough to put it far post and in. An unlikely winner to what was on the whole an unlikely game.
When it’s all said and done, I think Aston Villa fell victim to taking their opponent too lightly. That is simply an attitude you can never have. Tony Pulis still has a few holes at the back to sort out, but I bet if you asked him before the season how many points he honestly thought would come out of this fixture, Pulis would have said zero and at best one. While I still see them still fighting for survival this season, Stoke City put on a performance that I don’t think anyone could have expected save maybe the diehard Stoke City supporters.
A Few Other Observations:
* Did it look to anyone else that Gabriel Agbonlahor was too tentative in his play today? If his groin was bothering him that much, should he have even started?
* I was surprised that Martin O’Neill only used one of his three available subs. It was obvious to me his side needed shaking up, epically at the back.
* Stoke City to me wasted their third sub in bringing on Richard Cresswell for Ricardo Fuller. With the way Villa were playing at the back, I think Fuller still had something to offer.