Stoke City 2 Aston Villa 1 match report: Strictly business as Peter Crouch leads out-of-step Villa a merry dance

Villa's solid start to the season is in danger of unravelling after latest defeat

Britania Stadium

Peter Crouch rushed off to claim his seat beside the dancefloor after delivering a performance that manager Mark Hughes admitted would have merited a 10 if he had one of the Strictly Come Dancing score paddles at hand in the Stoke dug-out.

The beanpole striker set the standard for his wife Abbey Clancy’s ballroom title bid by setting up one goal, scoring another and almost grabbing another with a cheeky backheel that struck the inside of a post as Stoke’s progress under Hughes continued to gather upward momentum.

Stoke have suffered only one defeat in eight matches and can celebrate Christmas in the relative comfort of a mid-table position, a point ahead of Villa, whose stuttering form has not been helped by key striker Christian Benteke suffering a loss of confidence at just the wrong moment.

Benteke, left out in part due to a knee injury and in part because he has not scored in 10 matches, could benefit from some of the nous that enables Crouch to keep troubling Premier League defenders at the age of 32, despite sometimes finding himself on the end of some heavyweight tackles. Villa’s Fabian Delph was arguably lucky to escape with a yellow card after two fouls in a minute on the former England striker.

“I played that role for many years myself with my back to the goal and sometimes it can be a thankless task where you have to take some hits for the team,” Hughes said. “He has been a very accomplished player for some years now and you don’t achieve that at this level without being a very good player.”

Hughes refuted suggestions that Crouch might be sold in January, with a return to Queens Park Rangers, where he began his career, reportedly in the offing. “He is a player we want to keep, he won’t be going anywhere,” Hughes said.

One goal per game is the best either of these sides had been able to muster over the course of the 16 Premier League games and a drab first half promised little improvement. Villa, missing the suspended Gabriel Agbonlahor as well as Benteke, picked a front six with only half a dozen goals between them all season, which did not augur well for any improvement.

Given that Stoke did not offer anything significantly more scintillating than Villa in the first 45 minutes, it was as well Hughes saw fit to add some creativity in the second period, introducing Charlie Adam from the bench.

The former Liverpool midfielder’s first contribution of note was to put Stoke in front. Geoff Cameron, who had given Brad Guzan a scare in the first half when the strong wind turned one of his crosses into a shot that the American had to push over the bar, delivered another testing ball from the right, Crouch knocked a header downwards and Adam bustled past Nathan Baker before sliding the ball across the Villa keeper for his fourth goal of the season.

Villa began to look a little ragged, with Delph and Chris Herd booked in the space of a minute, after which Villa’s 66th-minute equaliser came as a surprise, although apart from Libor Kozak having the presence of mind to seize a gift opportunity, the visitors could not claim much credit for the goal.

A long Guzan clearance was only headed sideways by Marc Wilson, whose error was compounded when Erik Pieters attempted to head the ball back  to Asmir Begovic, only for Kozak to intercept and pick up an easy goal.

Villa manager Paul Lambert believed that his side did enough to merit a point, but Stoke were always the more positive side and Cameron’s crosses from the right flank continued to pose problems for a Villa defence lacking the injured Ron Vlaar and still suspect at times under pressure.

Crouch’s second goal came when a Cameron cross evaded both Guzan and Herd in their attempts to cut it out. Crouch controlled the ball on his chest and swept it home.

Plainly enjoying himself, Crouch demonstrated his special brand of fancy footwork after Glenn Whelan had headed an Adam corner back across goal, flicking out a heel and turning to see the ball clip the inside of the left-hand post before running to safety.

A swift reprise of his party-piece “robot” dance might have been the order of the day in the dressing room later, had there not been a fast car waiting to whisk him away.

Line-ups:

Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan; Walters, Arnautovic (Adam, h-t), Assaidi (Pennant, 71); Crouch.

Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Clark, Baker; Albrighton (Bacuna, 81), Westwood, Delph, Tonev (Bowery, 67); Weimann; Kozak. Referee: Craig Pawson.

Man of the match: Crouch (Stoke)

Match rating: 6/10

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?