Ron Vlaar's arrival at the team hotel prior to kick-off was a welcome boost for his team-mates and management alike, but the captain's influence failed to extend on to the FC Groningen pitch where Tjaronn Chery's presence proved decisive.
Leandro Bacuna, whose transfer from the Dutch side to Villa in June 2013 necessitated this pre-season friendly at the Euroborg, had identified Chery as a real threat for the home team and the 26-year-old attacking midfield player lived up to his billing.
When Shay Given's sliced clearance on five minutes fell to Nick van der Velden on Groningen's right flank the subsequent cross into the box from the wide man was despatched clinically by Chery beyond the Villa keeper.
Within two minutes, Chery struck again, on this occasion with an unstoppable shot into the top right corner from fully 30 yards.
With Vlaar merely spectating and the likes of Jores Okore, Karim El Ahmadi and Charles N'Zogbia on the bench, Villa's performance was under par and Groningen - who had already played competitively this season in the Europa League, losing in the qualifying rounds to Aberdeen, and are one week closer to the start of their season - eased further into the ascendancy.
Danny Hoesen set up Jarchinio Antonia from the right and Given could do nothing to prevent a three-goal deficit.
Amid eight changes in the second half, N'Zogbia came off the bench to deliver a sweet strike from a 25-yard free kick into the top left corner to raise travelling fans' hopes of a revival.
But Dino Islamovic put paid to these thoughts when he added a fourth for the home team in the final minute.
Villa: Given, Baker [Herd 73], Clark [Stevens], Weimann [N'Zogbia 69], Agbonlahor [c] [Grealish 73], Westwood [Gardner 73], Delph [El Ahmadi 69], Richardson, Bent [Bacuna 69], Hutton, Senderos [Okore 69]. Unused sub: Guzan.