Match: Aston Villa v Stoke City
Date: Saturday 15th December 2018
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: Villa Park
Abraham 73 (pen), Kodjia 84
Allen 47, Afobe 78 (pen)
Nyland; Elmohamady, Tuanzebe, Chester, Hutton; McGinn, Whelan (Hogan 84), Hourihane; El Ghazi (Kodjia 66), Abraham, Bolasie. Subs: Bunn, Bree, Davis, O’Hare, Revan.
Story in brief
Villa displayed their battling qualities by twice coming from behind to earn a draw at wet and windy Villa Park.
Tammy Abraham produced the first equaliser when he converted a penalty for his 12th goal of the season, and sub Jonathan Kodjia rescued a point with a fine header six minutes from the end.
Despite Villa’s greater first-half possession, the visitors created the better early chances, Ørjan Nyland having to make saves from both Joe Allen and James McClean by the 11th minute.
Even so, Villa were almost ahead on 23 minutes when Conor Hourihane’s superb 30-yard free-kick was tipped over for a corner by keeper Jack Butland.
Just 90 seconds into the second half, though, Stoke grabbed the lead when Allen drove powerfully into the roof of the net following a low cross from the right.
Villa were level when Abraham stroked home a penalty after Kodjia had been brought down in the area by left-back Erik Peters.
Stoke regained the lead five minutes later, sub Benik Afobe netting from the spot following Ahmed Elmohamady’s foul on McClean.
But Villa equalised for a second time when Glenn Whelan’s fine reverse pass enabled Yannick Bolasie to provide a perfect cross which Kodjia steered into the far corner with a clever angled header.
Tammy Abraham took his Villa goal haul to a dozen in 16 games as he again demonstrated his penchant for penalties.
For the third consecutive home match, the on-loan striker was on target from the spot – and once again it was an ice-cool conversion.
Just as he had against Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest, Abraham sent the keeper the wrong way, Jack Butland diving to his right as the striker stroked a low shot into the opposite corner.
The super sub
Substitutions don’t always have the desired effect, but the introduction of Jonathan Kodjia certainly did.
Seven minutes after replacing Anwar El Ghazi, the Ivory Coast striker earned Villa a penalty when he was pulled down by Erik Pieters.
And when the lively Yannick Bolasie produced an inviting cross six minutes from the end, Kodjia displayed his predatory instincts to beat keeper Jack Butland with a fine angled header into the far corner.
Bolasie, meanwhile, assumed the role of Villa’s creator-in-chief with some silky skills and effective step-overs.
And although his final ball from the left had not always been penetrating, there was no question about the quality of his cross from the right for Kodjia’s point-saver.
We’re back at Villa Park next Sunday (1.30pm) as Dean Smith’s side prepare for the second of their home matches ahead of the festive season.
The Yorkshire club have been mounting their strongest promotion challenge for years and have just picked up three more points at Bolton so it will be a difficult afternoon for the boys in claret and blue.
A tight match is in prospect, and Villa will happily settle for a repeat of last April’s result between the clubs, a 1-0 home win courtesy of a goal from loan striker Lewis Grabban.