Stoke City 3 Aston Villa 2: Sidibe strike sinks Villa and stokes City's hopes

If Stoke are going to survive in the Premier League and upset odds that have been stacked against such a feat the formula is quite simple: draw deeply on reserves of character and achieve well beyond your means. Maintaining that approach over the course of a season is quite a challenge, of course, but Saturday's display met both criteria.

Stoke, hosting their first game in the top division for 23 years, twice had their lead pegged back by a much-fancied Aston Villa team yet finally, thrillingly, won the game with the last move of the afternoon, deep into injury-time.

Their triumph turned on events shaped by a manager and a player operating at the top level for the first time in careers that have not exactly hogged the nation's back pages. Tony Pulis, sacked once by Stoke and now 100 games into his second spell, and his Mali striker, Mamady Sidibe, whose life has been anything but straightforward, have both served their time in the lower reaches and could be forgiven for finding the step up somewhat daunting. Neither seems to do so.

Pulis, a study in concentration and focus in the technical area, made five changes to the team beaten on the opening day at Bolton and another three during this match. The key substitution was replacing Dave Kitson, the club's record £5.5m signing from Reading who was not at his best, with the unheralded Sidibe after 76 minutes.

Villa were looking the more likely winners then, at 1-1. Stoke regained the advantage through Ricardo Fuller's exquisite strike but again Villa levelled as Martin Laursen prodded home Ashley Young's free-kick. It would be all Stoke could do to hold on for a point, you thought, yet Sidibe got his head to one of Rory Delap's missiles from the left touchline – the throw-in was measured at 38 metres – and an historic first Premier League win was in the bag.

If it was a significant moment for Stoke – the Britannia Stadium was a cauldron of noise – for Sidibe it was doubtless rather run-of-the-mill. This is a man, lest we forget, who was almost killed in a riot following an African Nations Cup game for Mali against Togo last October, when opposition fans knocked him unconscious and delivered so many savage blows to his body that he suffered severed veins and almost bled to death.

"He nearly got killed, he was very, very lucky and he's still got the scars to show that," said Pulis. "There were always issues about whether or not he would play for his country again but he's got over that. He's such a lovely lad, a real gem. He's fine now."

Sidibe is not noted for his goals, although a tally of four last season can be forgiven. His captain, Andy Griffin, said: "Mama is powerful, tall and strong and we do play a direct style here, so if you play a diagonal ball into him, he can flick it on in the box, which is a strength of ours," he said. "We'd have been delighted whoever got the goal as long as we won, but when he got it there was a little smile on everyone's faces because he's a gentleman off the pitch."

Villa's manager, Martin O'Neill, whose team first fell behind to a penalty from Liam Lawrence, cited John Carew's fine equaliser as a moment of quality but bemoaned his team's defending. "They're very dangerous but we thought we had resolved the problems of coping with them," he said. "We had one last [long throw] to deal with and whether it was a bit of luck or what, the ball ended up in our net. One thing ... in the last minute of a game is if you can't win it, then at least don't lose it."

Goals: Lawrence pen (30) 1-0; Carew (63) 1-1; Fuller (80) 2-1; Laursen (83) 2-2; Sidibe (90) 3-2.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Griffin, Cort, Abdoulaye Faye, Dickinson; Lawrence, Olofinjana, Amdy Faye (Diao, 72), Delap; Kitson (Sidibe, 76), Fuller (Cresswell, 87). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Shawcross, Wilkinson, Whelan.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Young, Laursen, Davies, Shorey (Routledge, 73); Reo-Coker, Petrov, Barry, Young; Agbonlahor, Carew. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk); Knight, Osbourne, Gardner, Salifou, Harewood.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Stoke Kitson.

Man of the match: Lawrence.

Attendance: 27,500.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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