Roy Keane and Aston Villa make perfect start with Stoke victory
Andreas Weimann's second-half strike proved the difference as Aston Villa won 1-0 at Stoke on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season.
Weimann rifled a shot in off Asmir Begovic in the 50th minute to steer the visitors to three points few might have predicted them collecting before kick-off.
Villa had not won away from home since January 1 and their six league games on the road previous to this had all ended in defeat in a poor conclusion to 2013/14.
Stoke, on the other hand, had finished the campaign strongly, and lost only three times in the league at the Britannia Stadium over the whole season.
However, it was Villa who made the winning start to 2014/15 with a result that could have been even more emphatic had Gabriel Agbonlahor and substitute Leandro Bacuna not squandered decent opportunities either side of the goal.
There were three summer signings making their competitive debuts in each starting line-up, forward Bojan Krkic, striker Mame Biram Diouf and full-back Phil Bardsley being the trio for Stoke, for whom newest arrival Victor Moses - whose loan move from Chelsea was confirmed earlier on Saturday - was not eligible to be involved.
The Villa bows were for wide man Kieran Richardson and defensive pair Philippe Senderos and Aly Cissokho, joined at the back by Alan Hutton, making his first competitive appearance of manager Paul Lambert's tenure after two seasons of being frozen out.
Winger Charles N'Zogbia, having missed all of last term through injury, was also back in the first XI and striker Darren Bent - another previously exiled under Lambert - was among the substitutes.
Stoke made a positive start to the contest, with Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan collecting a shot from Steven Nzonzi, seeing a Marko Arnautovic strike sail over and surviving a couple of hairy moments when Diouf tried to charge him down.
Bojan looked eager to build on the good impression he made in pre-season by scoring three goals for his new club, and he created the clearest chance yet when he cut into the area and fired wide in the 13th minute.
Villa had shown little attacking impetus, but they had a great chance to open the scoring in the 25th minute when Begovic and Stoke defender Marc Wilson got into a mix-up.
The resultant loose ball was crossed into the danger zone by Richardson to Agbonlahor, who seemingly had the goal at his mercy but - perhaps put off by the presence of Ryan Shawcross - scuffed his shot wide.
Villa began to get forward a bit more and just prior to the interval a whipped Cissokho delivery came to the head of Weimann too fast for him to keep it down, although the assistant referee's flag was raised for offside.
Seconds later, Bardsley's low shot was parried by Guzan, with Bojan unable to follow up, before N'Zogbia cracked a fierce effort goalwards which had the sting taken out of it by a deflection.
The game seemed to be warming up, and within five minutes of the restart the deadlock had been broken.
The ball broke off Erik Pieters to Weimann, who took a poor first touch. But it came back to him via a combination of Wilson and Stephen Ireland, and the Austria international hit a shot which squeezed in off Begovic.
Stoke sought an immediate response and Ron Vlaar did well to get in the way of a Bojan strike.
But the Potters struggled to fashion much after that and boss Mark Hughes looked to reinvigorate his attack by bringing on Peter Crouch for Diouf.
Arnautovic arrowed a shot wide soon after but it was just not happening for the home side, and Villa might have added another goal in the 87th minute, Bacuna shooting well off-target when he really should have done better.
Stoke fans held their breath in the dying seconds as Arnautovic turned and shot in the box, but Senderos was there with the block to ensure Villa held out for the win.
Stoke: Begovic,Bardsley,Shawcross,Wilson,Pieters,Nzonzi, Whelan (Adam 82),Bojan,Ireland,Arnautovic,Diouf (Crouch 71).
Subs Not Used: Huth,Muniesa,Walters,Sidwell,Sorensen.
Aston Villa: Guzan,Hutton,Vlaar,Senderos,Cissokho,Westwood, Delph,N'Zogbia (Grealish 71),Richardson,Weimann (Bacuna 82), Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Baker,Clark,El Ahmadi,Bent,Given.
Goals: Weimann 50.
Ref: Anthony Taylor