Pulis' flair for tactics earns Stoke a draw with Villa
Stoke City 0 Aston Villa 0
Had you watched this game as a neutral, seeking only entertainment, you would have felt short-changed.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis took off his most creative player, Tuncay Sanli, with more than half an hour left, but by the end Villa were happy to leave with a point. Bombarded by Rory Delap's long throws, buffeted by the giants seeking to exploit them, they were grateful for a clean sheet.
Only four teams have won at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League this season, three of whom occupy the first three places in the table.
Tuncay went off in a strop; Stoke's £5m record signing has completed a full 90 minutes only four times in 29 Premier League games. But Pulis could not have cared less. "It makes no difference to me who they are," he said. "The team is more important than any individual."
Indeed, the last half-hour saw Pulis vindicated, more or less. Ricardo Fuller, Tuncay's replacement, raised the tempo to the extent that Stoke had almost all the chances. But for some stout defending, particularly by Richard Dunne and James Milner, they would have won.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Collins; Whitehead, Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Tuncay Sanli (Fuller, 53), Sidibe (Kitson, 54). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Lawrence, Pugh, Wilkinson, Moult.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, J Collins, Dunne, Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Heskey, Carew (Agbonlahor, 77). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Delph, Beye.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
Bookings: Aston Villa Cuellar, Dunne, Milner, Warnock.
Man of the match: Dunne