Monday 5 December 2016

Garde upbeat as Villa display spirit in defeat

Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa

Sean Taylor

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with Xherdan Shaqiri Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with Xherdan Shaqiri Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Stoke City's Ibrahim Afellay (left) and Aston Villa's Jores Okore race for the ball Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Aston Villa manager Remi Garde Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Stoke City's Giannelli Imbula (left) battles for control of the ball against Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Remi Garde was pleased to see the right spirit return to his Aston Villa team, but the result was still the same. Garde publicly questioned the commitment of some of his players in light of the performance against Liverpool last time out, with the 6-0 defeat the club's worst home loss in 81 years.

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Perhaps stung by those words Garde's side, with just one change - Alan Hutton in for Micah Richards - looked much better, especially during the first half at the Britannia Stadium. However, their soft underbelly returned at the start of the second half and it cost them as Marko Arnautovic hit two goals, the first from the penalty spot, putting Stoke in front with 56 minutes on the clock.

It would have been easy for Villa to crumble, and if a Philipp Wollscheid header just after the hour had gone in they might have, but they dug in and showed some rare fight and pulled a goal back through Leandro Bacuna with 11 minutes remaining. Garde, visibly weary, tried to remain upbeat and called for everyone at Aston Villa to stick together for the remaining 11 matches of what has been an arduous Premier League campaign.

"We saw a team that had the right spirit, which was not the case in the previous game," said the Villa boss.

"The first 45 minutes we did this well, but we started poorly the second half. When you concede two goals like that in a very short period of time away from home it is difficult to get back in the game, but we did it. The spirit of the team was better. It was more a question of quality, rather than putting in more effort. There is still 11 games to play - 33 points available. It is still possible that we can win enough games to be safe. While it is mathematically possible, we will believe we can still do it."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes felt his team made hard work of it at times but he was grateful for the three points, which moved City up to eighth place.

"I thought we took time to get going but in the first half I was pleased with what we produced, although we perhaps needed more intensity and a bit more dynamism," said Hughes.

"I thought that's what we got in the second half. We started with some good intent after the break and scored two quick-fire goals. They had a spell late on, although their goal shouldn't have stood - it was clearly handball earlier on in the move. They threw some long balls into our box and we had to defend that.

"We could have taken the game away from them sooner and made it more comfortable for ourselves but we have another home game now on Wednesday and we will be looking for three points from that as well."

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