Arnautovic double sinks rock bottom Aston Villa
27th February 2016 3pm
A lacklustre Stoke City performance was enough for the Potters to beat relegation certainties Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium.
Marko Arnautovic`s five minute brace sank Remi Garde`s men, who showed no real fight or quality throughout the game.
Arnautovic opened the scoring from the spot when Phil Bardsley was fouled, before the Austrian was allowed to double his tally with his chest from a yard out.
Leandro Bacuna gave Villa some hope after he capitalised on a defensive mix-up, but it was a false dawn as the game fizzled out.
The victory for Mark Hughes men has enhanced their chances for another top 10 finish as they now sit 8th in the Premier League, and welcome Steve McClaren`s relegation threatened Newcastle United to Staffordshire on Wednesday.
Although the Potters didn`t impress during the game, they managed to grab the vital three points, which is encouraging for the fans and management alike.
They lacked any real thrust or urgency in the first half after a bright start and were dragged down to the travelling side`s standards.
A couple of real moments of brilliance from Xherdan Shaqiri, who has started to really show the X-factor as of late, managed to help the Potters break down Villa. Shaqiri first played a brilliant reserve pass into Bardsley who managed to draw the foul and allow Arnautovic to smash his penalty straight down the middle.
Shaqiri manufactured the second goal as well five minutes later as he found himself on the left flank and floated a perfect ball to Arnautovic, who first cushioned a header before chesting the ball into the empty net after Mark Bunn managed to get himself stuck in the net, to leave an open goal for the Austrian.
Ibrahim Afellay continued his impressive form for the Potters with some nice, calculated touches throughout the game, dictating tempo and nearly got himself on the scoresheet again, but his deflected shot/cross was tipped over by Bunn.
Stoke`s record signing Gianelli Imbula continued to impress and excite, with some brilliant passing, tackling and surging runs which drew comparisons to Steven N`Zonzi at the height of his powers. There is still more to come from the Frenchmen as he continues to settle and adapt to English football.
With the positives from a poor game for Stoke it has to be said that Aston Villa look destined to be playing Championship football next season as they sit rock bottom, eight points away from safety and with tough fixtures against Everton and Manchester City on the horizon.
The Birmingham based side seemed to have no real game plan and lacked any real quality all over the pitch, but did manage to score with their only goal on target.
With a foot back in the game, you would have thought that Aston Villa would have flooded forward in search of an equaliser, but the players` confidence is at rock bottom, and Stoke were able to see out the final quarter of the match without any real scares.