|VIEW FROM VILLA PARK |
|By Sam Lee |
That was as strange as it was straightforward. Stoke City roared back from Christian Benteke's early goal, went 3-1 up before the break, bossed the second half completely and nicked a fourth late. Easy as that.
Mark Hughes's men were extremely comfortable in possession and, on a day when Villa could have ended any lingering fears of relegation, it was completely and utterly outplayed despite going ahead.
The Villa fans who stayed for the final whistle booed their players off after a sobering performance for Paul Lambert, who had recently masterminded two fine wins over Norwich City and Chelsea. The Stoke fans were much happier, of course, and Hughes will be delighted that his side looks like finishing the season in fine shape.
Christian Benteke gave Paul Lambert's men the lead less than five minutes into the game, slamming home from close range after an assist from Fabian Delph.
But Peter Odemwingie hit back midway through the first half when he raced onto and finished a flick from Peter Crouch, who then put the Potters in front four minutes later in a fine turnaround.
An error from Nathan Baker then opened it up for Steven N'Zonzi to lash home from the edge of the area just before halftime and Villa was unable to recover, with U.S. international Geoff Cameron adding a fourth late in the game to rub salt into the wound.
A first away league victory since the end of August saw Stoke climb into the top half above its opponent, 12 points clear of the relegation zone, while for Villa it was a chastening defeat after consecutive wins over Norwich City and Chelsea.
It all looked to be going to plan for Lambert's side when Benteke gave it a dream start inside five minutes after excellent work by the in-form Delph. The midfielder turned away from Cameron down the left before finding the Belgian, who took a touch and fired high into the net from 10 yards.
Odemwingie went close to leveling in the 20th minute, seeing his effort from the edge of the box deflect to the roof of the net, but he did score two minutes later when he got on the end of Crouch's knockdown before muscling his way through and slotting the ball between the legs of the advancing Brad Guzan.
And Stoke was in front four minutes later, with Crouch converting Pieters' low cross after the fullback got the better of Andreas Weimann on the left-hand side.
All the momentum was with the visitors and they added a third three minutes before the break, with N'Zonzi slotting home from the edge of the area after Bacuna's mistake let in Marko Arnautovic.
Stoke kept Villa comfortably at bay before Cameron tucked away Arnautovic's low cross after the Austrian had comprehensively beaten the beleaguered Bacuna.
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