Marko Arnautovic scored the only goal of the game as Stoke City continued their upward momentum in the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa that piles further pressure on Tim Sherwood.
Following a disappointing start to the season, Stoke have turned things around in recent weeks and claimed their third straight win in all competitions thanks to Arnautovic’s 55th-minute strike.
The Austria forward saw a 35th-minute goal dubiously disallowed for offside but would not be denied a second time, his low shot from 10 yards condemning Villa to a fourth-straight league defeat.
Arnautovic capitalised on some poor defending from the Villa backline to break the deadlock, and Mark Hughes’ men rarely looked like being pegged back.
Micah Richards did waste a glorious chance to level but Villa – who have not won in the Premier League since the opening day of the season – rarely tested Stoke after that.
Defeat for Villa keeps Sherwood’s men in the bottom three with just four points from eight games and, with a trip to champions Chelsea next on the agenda after the international break, life is unlikely to get any easier for the former Tottenham boss.
Stoke were without Xherdan Shaqiri because of a thigh injury but had the better of an open start to game, although both teams struggled to craft goal-scoring opportunities.
Charlie Adam almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion in the 18th minute with an effort from inside his own half reminiscent of his stunning goal at Chelsea last season.
However, a backpedalling Brad Guzan turned the ball behind and Stoke were fortunate not to fall behind themselves as Villa defender Joleon Lescott forced Jack Butland to tip the ball over the crossbar with a header from a corner nine minutes later.
The visitors appeared to have been rewarded for their slight superiority 10 minutes before half-time when Arnautovic turned Bojan’s cross home at the near post only to be denied by the offside flag despite replays suggesting he was level with play.
Lescott was replaced by Jack Grealish after the interval but the substitution did not have the desired impact as Arnautovic again displayed his finishing prowess to put Stoke ahead.
The 26-year-old was afforded too much space by the Villa defence to latch on to an excellent Glen Johnson pass and fire in off the post.
Villa should have responded instantly but Richards headed wide from Grealish’s left-wing cross from point-blank range.
Midfielder Jordan Veretout had a seemingly goal-bound effort blocked but that was as good as it got for Villa on yet another uninspiring afternoon for the Villa Park faithful.