Stoke City 0-1 Aston Villa
- Villa win first away match since New Year's Day
- Victory only Villa's second in eight visits to Stoke
- Bojan Krkic impresses on Stoke debut
Andreas Weimann scored the only goal of the game as Aston Villa started their season with a hard-earned victory over Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
The Austria striker netted five minutes into the second half with an angled shot which was too powerful for Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Phil Bardsley had Stoke's best chance in the first half with a curling shot.
Former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic impressed for the home side but they were unable to find an equaliser.
With a buyer for Villa yet to come forward following American owner Randy Lerner's decision to put the club up for sale this summer, the need to maintain their Premier League status was reflected in their recruitment policy over the summer.
After two seasons battling against relegation, Villa boss Paul Lambert, assisted by Roy Keane, has turned to more experienced players in an attempt to improve their fortunes.
|An end to Villa's away day blues?|
|Aston Villa won away from home for only the second time in 2014. Before this game the claret and blues were winless in their last nine Premier League away fixtures since beating Sunderland on New Year's Day.|
Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos was signed by Villa along with ex-Valencia team-mate Aly Cissokho, who spent last season on loan at Liverpool, and they both looked solid on their debuts in a disciplined defensive display along with utility man Kieran Richardson.
As with last season the worry for Villa fans might be where the goals come from - the return of injured Belgium striker Christian Benteke cannot come soon enough.
But Weimann showed he may be able to fill the breach if he can recapture the form of his breakthrough 2012-13 campaign rather than his more modest displays last season.
Weimann opened the scoring for the visitors five minutes into the second half when the ball broke kindly to him inside the area after an initial heavy touch, and the 23-year-old striker's shot from a tight angle had too much power on it for Begovic.
Stoke finished in ninth place last season, their highest Premier League position and their best top flight finish since 1975, in Mark Hughes's first campaign in charge.
Hughes had the task of improving Stoke's playing style after he replaced Tony Pulis as manager in May 2013 and with a season under his belt further progress looked evident against Villa despite the defeat.
Stoke's signing of former Barcelona forward Bojan, 23, has certainly excited supporters at the Britannia Stadium, but too often Hughes' side could not find an end product for all their clever build-up play.
Bojan in particular showed some clever touches as Stoke monopolised possession in the opening period and the Spaniard went close early on with an angled shot.
Lambert's side were given another early let-off when Stoke's Mame Biram Diouf closed down Brad Guzan and the American goalkeeper was fortunate his kick rebounded to safety rather than into the Villa goal.
The visitors should have opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark though, when a mix-up between Marc Wilson and Begovic allowed Richardson to cross for Gabby Agbonlahor, but with the net vacant the Villa forward guided his shot wide of the post.
The home side's best chance came when Bardsley cut in from the right flank and curled a low shot which forced Guzan to scramble across goal to make a smart save.
Stoke once again controlled possession after the break with Villa content to hold on to what they had.
But apart from Marko Arnautovic's late effort, blocked by Senderos, they never really troubled Guzan's goal as a disciplined Villa side closed out the game.
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert: "I thought we were excellent apart from the first 10 minutes where we were a bit nervous.
"It was a solid performance. The whole back four were great and the goal was excellent. We never got bullied and stood up to it.
"I thought there were massive performances. It was an outstanding team display. Everyone played their part."
Stoke City boss Mark Hughes: "I think the key for us was the opening goal. Everyone knows how important it is at Premier League level.
"We didn't quite have that guile or creativity in the final third.
"First half I was reasonably pleased with the chances we created and with a little bit more care in the box we might have got on top."
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