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

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week