Aston Villa Falls to Stoppage-Time Goal as Team Waits for Manager Houllier

Aston Villa missed a chance to move third in English soccer’s Premier League as Stoke rallied with two late goals for a 2-1 home victory.

Villa entered the final 10 minutes at the Britannia Stadium last night leading 1-0 through Stewart Downing’s first-half header. Kenwyne Jones made it 1-1 in the 80th minute before Robert Huth got the winner three minutes into stoppage time.

Villa was again coached by caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald because new manager Gerard Houllier, appointed last week as Martin O’Neill’s replacement, was unable to take charge as he secures his release from his role as technical director of the French Football Federation.

“I’m sure it will have affected the players, but you’ll have to ask them that,” MacDonald said in comments on Villa’s website. “I look at the way they have trained and performed on the pitch and I don’t see an awful lot of problems.”

Villa stayed in seventh place in the standings with six points following its second loss in four games, while Stoke averted a fourth straight defeat that would have represented its worst start in 104 years.

Stoke’s comeback came after manager Tony Pulis arrived at the game during the first half following the death of his mother earlier in the day, according to his assistant, David Kemp.

“He wanted to get his overalls on and get out there and help us get an important result,” Kemp said on Stoke’s website. “He took the paint of the walls with his halftime talk and we were delighted with the way the players responded.”

Downing put Villa ahead in the 35th minute with a diving header. The visiting team’s lead lasted until Jones made it 1-1 with his first goal since joining from Sunderland for a club- record 8 million pounds ($12.3 million).

With stoppage time entering a third minute, Huth diverted Matthew Etherington’s shot past Brad Friedel to give Stoke the victory.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at dbaynes@bloomberg.net

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