THREE second-half Aston Villa goals consigned Stoke City to defeat in their Barclays Under-21s Premier League Group 2 match at Bodymoor Heath.
After an even first 45 minutes without too many opportunities, strikes from Michael Drennan, Daniel Johnson and Josh Barton meant the hosts eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
The Potters will rue a fifteen minute spell just after the break where they were over-run by a Villa side clearly buoyed by a half-time team talk from first-team manager Paul Lambert.
City fielded a youthful line-up, with a selection of Under-18s players in the squad rather than the permitted three Over-23s that took part in Saturday’s defeat to Manchester United.
Immanuel Parry, on-loan at Nuneaton Town but still allowed to play for the Under-21s, stepped in for Ben Heneghan in central defence, while Adam Thomas was selected in the lone forward role.
Villa fielded some familiar names – first-team regulars Chris Herd and Eric Lichaj started in defence while Gary Gardner, younger brother of Sunderland’s Craig Gardner, was in the middle of the park.
Their quality showed in the early stages, too, as Johnson tested Bachmann twice, with the Austrian stopper pulling off an impressive save from the second attempt.
Stoke were struggling to make any inroads themselves, but held firm against a fluid Aston Villa midfield making the most of a pristine late summer pitch.
The young Potters soon created a fine chance of their own on 29 minutes – Jadan Hall played a clever one-two with Thomas before squaring to Jordan Richardson, but the attacking midfielder steered his shot wide.
Villa raced up the other end and went close when Barton’s cross found Courtney Cameron, whose near-perfect volley whistled past Bachmann’s post.
Barton himself had a speculative effort five minutes before the break, but the whistle blew on a goalless but entertaining half of football.
After Lambert’s rallying call at half-time, the home team flew out of the blocks and took the lead on 48 minutes – Enda Stevens’ cross found Drennan unmarked in the six-yard box, and the striker made no mistake with his header.
Three minutes later, only a desperate Parry goal-line clearance prevented Gardner from doubling the Villans’ advantage, but they weren’t to be held back for long and scored again soon after.
Barton found Cameron on the right-hand side, and his cross was only half-cleared by Parry, with the ball falling to Johnson who timed his volley well to beat Bachmann and find the corner.
Stoke rallied and could have hauled themselves back into the game but for the heroics of Benjamin Siegrist between the sticks for Villa, who somehow kept out Richardson’s point-blank effort on 63 minutes.
The contest evened out once more, although the sense that Villa were always in control was palpable as they confidently snuffed out any City advancements in the final third.
With twelve minutes left on the clock, they put the game to bed with another excellent goal – substitute Janoi Donacien found Barton with an exquisite through ball, and he made no mistake with a clinical left-footed finish into the top corner.
City wasted a number of set-pieces in their efforts to grab a consolation goal, and the clock eventually ticked down with the hosts taking the points and a clean sheet to boot.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Glasgow, Parry, Keane (O’Reilly 84), Clarkson; Hall, Rigg, Dawson (Scott 69), Richardson, Musungu (Rossi 77); Thomas. Subs not used: Eve, Campbell
Aston Villa: Siegrist; Lichaj (Donacien 45), Herd (Devine 45), Williams, Stevens; Grealish, Barton, Gardner (Ward 75), Johnson, Cameron; Drennan. Subs not used: Barrett, Graham