Premier League - Lowton wonder goal for Villa drags Stoke into relegation fight

Premier League, Britannia Stadium - Stoke City 1 (Kightly 80) Aston Villa 3 (Agbonlahor 9, Lowton 87, Benteke 90+1)

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Matthew Lowton of Aston Villa celebrates scoring his team's second goal to make the score 1-2 during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium on April 6, 2013 (Getty)

An incredible late goal from right-back Matthew Lowton set Aston Villa on course for a 3-1 win which dragged hosts Stoke City into the Premier League relegation mire.

After Gabriel Agbonlahor's early opener was levelled by a Michael Kightly strike 10 minutes from time, Lowton brought down a looping clearance on his chest and sent a quite brilliant volley into the far top corner from more than 30 yards out.

Christian Benteke made sure of the points in injury time with a cool finish.

Villa move a point behind Stoke and three points clear of Wigan and the relegation zone.

Stoke went on the attack from kick-off and were denied a penalty in only the second minute as Jonathan Walters's cross was blocked by the hand of Nathan Baker. He was only a yard away, but his arm was held well away from his body; referee Mark Clattenburg waved away his appeal.

Agbonlahor scored his fifth goal in nine league matches - having bagged just one in 36 PL before this run - in the ninth minute. Lowton played a one-two from a throw and crossed low for the striker, whose first shot was blocked but hit the back of the net with his second try as home goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was stranded.

The visiting fans, suddenly in better voice than the vociferous sell-out home support, thought it was two three minutes later when Jordan Bowery curled a shot into the side-netting from the edge of the box.

Benteke then tested Begovic with a hooked shot from outside the six-yard box as Stoke's early charge melted away and Villa began to control proceedings.

Agbonlahor went close again, curling low past the post from a Benteke pass, then on the half-hour mark Andreas Weimann struck the base of the post with a similar try - Begovic getting a slight but all-important touch.

Five minutes later Agbonlahor was unlucky to be denied a penalty and booked for diving when he was caught by the keeper's studs on the foot as he went past him on the left.

Just before the break Weimann seemed to be felled by a Stoke defender with his back to goal, but he scrambled up to retrieve the ball and Clattenburg again denied the Villans a spot-kick.

It was as poor a half of football as Tony Pulis must have ever seen from his side. He introduced Kightly for Matthew Etherington at the break, but it did nothing to change the course of the match.

Soon into the second period Bowery was picked out by Joe Bennett down the left channel and Marc Wilson went walkabout to allow him a path to goal. Begovic spared his blushes with a reaction save.

After a frantic and incident-packed first half-hour, the match had slowed to a pedestrian pace - with Villa in control. They had over 60 per cent of the possession after an hour's play.

Yet the ghost of their away record - the worst in the top flight this season - took on a more tangible form the longer they went without a second goal.

Cameron Jerome, an enforced substitute after Wilson hobbled off, gave Stoke more pace up front yet when he got in behind and cut back for Kenwyne Jones, his strike partner completely missed the ball.

Jones was involved in a verbal spat with team-mate Jonathan Walters as the frustration of Stoke's fans spilled down from the stands and infused their players, with Peter Crouch and Michael Owen looking on from the bench, never to be called upon.

The only note of optimism was sounded when Charlie Adam was thrown on - for the sixth game in a row - at least until his first touch conceded a throw-in.

However it was the Scot who made the goal. He found Walters on the left and continued his run into the box; the attacker skipped inside and looked for a return pass. It was a little heavy, but Adam lunged and got the ball to Kightly, who picked out the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Villa escaped a penalty claim when the ball struck centre-half Ron Vlaar on the arm and, with the home fans roaring, under-fire away boss Paul Lambert must have feared the worst.

He need not have worried. When a corner was cleared high into the sky, he watched the ball come down and set himself up before crashing an unstoppable flat strike into the far corner.

Poor defending from last man Robert Huth allowed Benteke a clear run on goal in injury time, and he picked out the near-post bottom corner himself despite having options to right and left. Benteke has now scored nine goals in 2013, the most of any Premier League player.

PLAYER RATINGS

ASTON VILLA: Guzan 7, Lowton 8, Vlaar 6, Baker 6, Bennett 6, Westwood 6, Weimann 7, Delph 6, Bowery 7, Agbonlahor 7, Benteke 7. Subs: N’Zogbia 6, Sylla 6, Bent 6

STOKE CITY: Begovic 7, Cameron 6, Shawcross 4, Huth 4, Wilson 5, Shotton 5, Whitehead 5, Nzonzi 6, Etherington 4, Walters 5, Jones 5. Subs: Adam 7, Kightly 7, Jerome 5

MAN OF THE MATCH

Matthew Lowton: Scored perhaps the goal of the season. He also made the first after fighting to complete a one-two from a throw-in and crossing for Agbonlahor.

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