Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke
Aston Villa remain just two points clear of the Premier League relegation zone after an insipid goalless draw against in-form Stoke.
Despite dominating possession, Villa created few chances and Christian Benteke tamely side-footed their best opportunity at Stoke's Asmir Begovic.
Stoke, who knew they could move up to sixth with victory, failed to force Villa's Brad Guzan into a single save.
Potters defender Ryan Shotton was sent off in injury-time for a second yellow.
Scoring has been a problem for both sides this season, with just 26 goals between them in their 30 Premier League games ahead of Saturday's encounter.
So it was no surprise that Villa, the division's lowest goalscorers, failed to break down their visitors.
Defensive strength has been the bedrock of Stoke's success, with only Manchester City conceding fewer goals than the Potters.
However, Villa boss Paul Lambert once again opted to leave £24m striker Darren Bent on the bench, with the England international finally appearing midway through the second half for his first appearance since the end of October.
Huge cheers greeted Bent's arrival but he barely had a touch as he failed to provide the cutting edge sorely lacked by Villa.
Most of the home side's best chances fell to Christian Benteke, who has been leading the line during Bent's absence through injury and Lambert's selection policy.
The Belgian met a loose ball in the Potters box with a venomous 12th-minute volley, but was denied by a brave block from Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross.
And he wasted an even better chance less than a minute into the second half.
Barry Bannan lofted a diagonal pass into the Stoke box to allow Matthew Lowton to head back across goal to the waiting Benteke.
But the 22-year-old failed to connect properly and tamely volleyed straight into the hands of Begovic.
Tony Pulis's men were unbeaten in five league matches and would have leapfrogged Stoke and Everton into the top six with their fourth consecutive win.
But they failed to muster a single opportunity in an impotent attacking display and the single point means they remain ninth in the table.
Tempers threatened to boil over on several occasions at Villa Park, most notably when Villa defender Ciaran Clark charged into Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan just before half-time to spark a melee between both sets of players.
Referee Roger East managed to restore peace without resorting to bookings, but Shotton became the first player to receive a yellow card for chatting back to the official.
And 18 minutes later he was sent to the dressing room after an innocuous challenge on Villa substitute Fabian Delph.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis:
"We're pleased with the draw. We played some good football as well, but that's for others to judge. We restricted Villa and Asmir [Begovic] hardly had a save to make. We could have offered more of a threat going forward.
"I'm disappointed with [Ryan Shotton's] two bookings when you compare those with the tackle on Glenn Whelan [by Villa's Ciaran Clark].
"But you cannot criticise the referee and say they are doing something different for each side. I'm not going to do that because they [the FA] have took money off me before for doing that. But it was pretty bizarre for me and disappointing."
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert:
"For 0-0 it was a decent spectacle. We played really well and had early dominance. I couldn't ask for any more other than the goal.
"We had a lot of ball and dominated the game possession-wise. The young lads at the back coped well with Stoke's physicality.
"Darren Bent did fine. Everybody played their part."
- 22 Guzan
- 06 Clark
- 30 Lichaj
- 32 Baker
- 34 Lowton
- 15 Westwood
- 25 Bannan (Delph - 78' )
- 31 Herd
- 11 Agbonlahor (Bent - 66' )
- 14 Holman (Ireland - 66' )
- 20 Benteke
- 01 Given
- 37 Williams
- 07 Ireland
- 08 El Ahmadi
- 16 Delph
- 09 Bent
- 26 Weimann
- 01 Begovic
- 02 Cameron
- 04 Huth
- 17 Shawcross
- 30 Shotton Dismissed after an earlier booking
- 06 Whelan
- 15 Nzonzi
- 18 Whitehead
- 26 Etherington (Jerome - 68' )
- 09 Jones (Crouch - 75' )
- 19 Walters
- 29 Sorensen
- 20 Upson
- 28 Wilkinson
- 08 Palacios
- 21 Kightly
- 25 Crouch
- 33 Jerome
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +2:17
Indirect free kick taken by Ashley Westwood.90:00 +2:17 Dismissal
Dismissal The referee red cards Ryan Shotton for second bookable offence.90:00 +2:12
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Fabian Delph by Ryan Shotton.90:00 +0:52
A cross is delivered by Ashley Westwood, clearance made by Robert Huth.90:00 +0:39
The ball is swung over by Fabian Delph, Steven Nzonzi makes a clearance.86:58
Eric Lichaj takes a shot.86:21
Ryan Shotton delivers the ball, save made by Bradley Guzan.84:21
Glenn Whelan fouled by Stephen Ireland, the ref awards a free kick. Asmir Begovic restarts play with the free kick.82:38
Stephen Ireland produces a right-footed shot from inside the area that clears the bar.81:59
The offside flag is raised against Cameron Jerome. Ciaran Clark restarts play with the free kick.79:28
Ryan Shotton crosses the ball, clearance by Chris Herd.78:56
Chris Herd concedes a free kick for a foul on Peter Crouch. Robert Huth restarts play with the free kick.77:41 Substitution
Substitution Fabian Delph comes on in place of Barry Bannan.76:48
Ryan Shotton produces a cross, clearance made by Nathan Baker.74:27
Barry Bannan takes the free kick.74:27 Substitution
Substitution Kenwyne Jones goes off and Peter Crouch comes on.74:27 Booking
Booking Ryan Shotton receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.74:12
Ryan Shotton concedes a free kick for a foul on Stephen Ireland.73:38
Ryan Shotton sends in a cross, save made by Bradley Guzan.
The ball is delivered by Eric Lichaj, clearance made by Geoff Cameron.69:50
Christian Benteke is ruled offside. Asmir Begovic takes the free kick.67:19
Robert Huth restarts play with the free kick.67:19 Substitution
Substitution Cameron Jerome on for Matthew Etherington.67:19
Christian Benteke gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steven Nzonzi.66:42
Jonathan Walters produces a right-footed shot from close range which goes wide of the right-hand post.66:33
The ball is delivered by Robert Huth.65:23 Substitution
Substitution (Aston Villa) makes a substitution, with Darren Bent coming on for Gabriel Agbonlahor.65:23 Substitution
Substitution Stephen Ireland replaces Brett Holman.65:13
Corner taken by Matthew Etherington, save by Bradley Guzan.64:46
Jonathan Walters sends in a cross, Ciaran Clark manages to make a clearance.62:37
The ball is crossed by Glenn Whelan, clearance made by Ciaran Clark.60:03
Christian Benteke takes a shot. Ryan Shawcross gets a block in.56:49
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Christian Benteke by Robert Huth. Matthew Lowton takes the free kick.55:18
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kenwyne Jones on Bradley Guzan. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.54:57
A cross is delivered by Ryan Shotton, save by Bradley Guzan.53:25
Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven Nzonzi on Chris Herd. Chris Herd restarts play with the free kick.51:48
Ciaran Clark challenges Ryan Shotton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Geoff Cameron.50:48
The ball is swung over by Brett Holman.49:59
Ashley Westwood fouled by Ryan Shawcross, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Barry Bannan.48:57
Jonathan Walters produces a cross, Nathan Baker makes a clearance.47:50
The official flags Kenwyne Jones offside. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.45:45
Christian Benteke takes a shot. Save by Asmir Begovic.45:01
The referee gets the second half started.45:00 +2:06 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.45:00 +0:13
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Nathan Baker by Steven Nzonzi. Direct free kick taken by Bradley Guzan.44:13
The assistant referee flags for offside against Christian Benteke. Asmir Begovic takes the free kick.43:36
Gabriel Agbonlahor delivers the ball.41:27
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Nzonzi from the left by-line to the near post, Ashley Westwood makes a clearance.40:33
Geoff Cameron fouled by Brett Holman, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Ryan Shawcross.40:08
Free kick awarded for a foul by Eric Lichaj on Kenwyne Jones. Geoff Cameron restarts play with the free kick.38:36
The assistant referee flags for offside against Jonathan Walters. Ciaran Clark restarts play with the free kick.37:01
Barry Bannan fouled by Dean Whitehead, the ref awards a free kick. Barry Bannan restarts play with the free kick.34:22
Christian Benteke challenges Glenn Whelan unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Asmir Begovic.30:49
Christian Benteke concedes a free kick for a foul on Kenwyne Jones. Geoff Cameron restarts play with the free kick.24:51
Free kick awarded for a foul by Robert Huth on Ashley Westwood. Direct free kick taken by Barry Bannan.23:50
Matthew Etherington sends in a cross, clearance by Nathan Baker.21:54
A cross is delivered by Ryan Shotton, Nathan Baker makes a clearance.20:33
Free kick awarded for a foul by Robert Huth on Christian Benteke. Ashley Westwood takes the free kick.18:11
Christian Benteke fouled by Geoff Cameron, the ref awards a free kick. Barry Bannan has a direct shot on goal from the free kick.16:57
Unfair challenge on Nathan Baker by Geoff Cameron results in a free kick. Barry Bannan delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left channel, Robert Huth manages to make a clearance.14:34
The ball is sent over by Jonathan Walters.12:42
Matthew Lowton takes a shot. Asmir Begovic makes a save.11:40
Effort on goal by Barry Bannan from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.11:12
Corner from the left by-line taken by Barry Bannan, Christian Benteke takes a shot. Blocked by Ryan Shawcross.11:01
Gabriel Agbonlahor crosses the ball, clearance by Ryan Shotton.10:06
The referee penalises Christian Benteke for handball. Glenn Whelan takes the free kick.7:28
Christian Benteke is ruled offside. Asmir Begovic takes the indirect free kick.4:22
Brett Holman takes a shot. Save made by Asmir Begovic.4:11
The ball is delivered by Barry Bannan.3:48
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Barry Bannan from the right by-line, clearance made by Kenwyne Jones.3:08
Geoff Cameron concedes a free kick for a foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor. Barry Bannan takes the indirect free kick.2:16
Barry Bannan produces a cross.1:37
The ball is swung over by Matthew Lowton, Ryan Shotton manages to make a clearance. Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Barry Bannan, clearance by Glenn Whelan.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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