Jed Steer

PL Friendly Roundup: Bojan makes Stoke return, Norwich City gets win in Germany

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The start of the 2015-16 Premier League season is just two weeks away as clubs continue to do some fine-tuning in preseason friendlies across the globe.

Stoke City may have lost 2-0 to Brentford FC, but the Potters got some great news as Bojan made his return to the pitch after knee surgery. The former Barcelona man had been in great form in his first season at Stoke City before suffering a torn ACL in January, ending his season prematurely. Bojan played the second half for Mark Hughes’ side, and will be a key man for the Potters as they look to improve on their ninth place finish in the Premier League last season.

Watford earned a 1-0 victory over Scottish side Dundee United as the Hornets prepare for their first season in the Premier League since 2007. Troy Deeney scored the match’s only goal, and Watford will be relying on their skipper to continue scoring all season long. Deeney has tallied at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons for the Hornets.

[ RELATED: Sergio Aguero to miss Manchester City’s Premier League opener vs. West Brom ]

Fellow Premier League newcomers Norwich City took a 2-1 win against German side FC Augsburg, an excellent result for the Canaries. Augsburg finished fifth in the Bundesliga last season, earning qualification into the Europa League. After falling behind 1-0, Youssouf Mulumbu leveled for Norwich before an 89th minute strike from Lewis Grabban sealed the win.

Leicester City managed a 1-1 draw against Mansfield Town, a team that finished 21st on the table in England’s fourth-division. David Nugent scored for the Foxes just ten minutes in, but Mansfield leveled from the penalty spot before the half hour mark. New manager Claudio Ranieri wasn’t worried about the result as he is more focused on getting his players match-fit for the Premier League.

Aston Villa lost top scorer Christian Benteke to Liverpool, and without the big Belgian, Tim Sherwood’s side could have some major troubles finding the back of the net. Benteke’s absence was felt today as Villa drew with League One side Walsall FC 1-1. 20-year-old Callum Preston scored his first goal for Aston Villa after spending last season on loan at Preston North End, giving the Villans a lead 22 minutes in. But Walsall would draw level with a bit of luck right before the half, as Anthony Forde’s free kick took a deflection leaving goalkeeper Jed Steer helpless. One positive for Villa was the play of summer signing Idrissa Gueye, who seems to be fitting in nicely with his new club.

West Bromwich Albion got a big 4-1 win over Swindon Town, with James Morrison scoring twice in the Baggies first win after coming back from their American tour. Victor Anichebe also scored for West Brom as they led just 2-1 until the final five minutes, when Tony Pulis’ side scored two late goals to end the match with a 4-1 win.

[ VIDEO: “Are you up for football?” New NBC Sports promo for 2015-16 Premier League season ]

Swansea City drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest, with new signing Andre Ayew picking up the Swans’ only goal. Ayew came over from French side Marseille as Garry Monk continues to build his team after finishing 8th in the Premier League last season. Monk denied reports that striker Bafetimbi Gomis would leave after he was linked with a move to Dubai club Al Ahli, but Gomis did not feature in the friendly today.

West Ham was held to a scoreless draw with Charlton Athletic as Slaven Bilic prepares himself for his first season as a manager in the Premier League.

Aston Villa 0-1 Burnley: Ings ensures Clarets finish with a win

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Burnley beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park on Sunday, as the already relegated Clarets secured back-to-back away wins in the Premier League.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

The only goal of the game arrived early on as Danny Ings headed home to give Sean Dyche’s men their eighth victory of the season. Villa had a great chance for Gabriel Agbonlahor denied by Tom Heaton in the second half as Tim Sherwood’s side prepared for their FA Cup final at Wembley against Arsenal next week in awful fashion.

With the win, Burnley in 19th spot on 33 points and Villa finished just one place above the drop zone in 17th on 38 points.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Burnley took the lead in the sixth minute as a looping ball into the box was headed across goal by Ashley Barnes and Inges flicked home a header into the top corner to give the Clarets a lead. 1-0.

The Clarets were getting stuck in and Fredrik Ulvestad was booked for a poor challenge on Jack Grealish as Villa struggled to get into the match. Barnes hobbled off in the first half but Burnley held onto their lead as the half time whistle blew.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Christian Benteke played in Agbonlahor but he was denied by Heaton and the England goalkeeper also denied Charles N’Zogbia and Ashley Westwood as Villa couldn’t find an equalizer.

Burnley almost doubled their lead but young goalkeeper Jed Steer, who was making his first start in the Premier League on Sunday, denied George Boyd after Ings had cleverly played him in.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Steer, Baker, Vlaar, Bacuna (Hutton, 80′), Cleverley (Sinclair, 72′), Agbonlahor, Westwood, Delph, Benteke, N’Zogbia, Grealish

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Shackell, Keane, Mee; Arfield, Jones, Ulvestad (Taylor, 65′), Boyd; Barnes (Vokes, 34′); Ings (Reid, 87′)

Goal: Ings (6′)

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Burnley (Lineups and Live Stream)

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Aston Villa welcome Burnley to Villa Park on Sunday (Watch Live, 10 a.m. ET on Esquire and online via Live Extra) as Tim Sherwood’s side look to go into the FA Cup final next weekend on a high.

Heading into their final Premier League game of the season, Villa are safe from relegation but Burnley is heading back to the Championship at the first-time of asking after a brave battle against the drop.

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In team news Villa make three changes as goalkeeper Jed Steer, defender Nathan Baker and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor come in after their 6-1 drubbing at Southampton last weekend. Burnley bring in Michael Keane and Fredrik Ulvestad.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Steer, Baker, Vlaar, Bacuna, Cleverley, Agbonlahor, Westwood, Delph, Benteke, N’Zogbia, Grealish. Subs: Guzan, Sinclair, Weimann, Hutton, Sanchez, Robinson, Green

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Shackell, Keane, Mee; Arfield, Jones, Ulvestad, Boyd; Barnes; Ings. Subs: Gilks, Duff, Kightly, Taylor, Jutkiewicz, Vokes, Reid

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discussion)

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Yesterday’s Merseyside Derby received all the hype ahead of the Premier League’s 23rd round, but for the fans that will pack Villa Park in Birmingham this evening, no fixture may be more anticipated than West Bromwich Albion’s trip to Aston Villa. At 2:45 p.m. ET, the two clubs will renew one of the premier rivalries in the West Midlands, with their season’s second derby available to steam via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Last time out in league, Aston Villa gave one of the best performances of what’s been an inconsistent season. The same spark they showed to open the campaign with an upset at the Emirates was evident at Anfield, where they took a 2-0 lead on Liverpool. Though the Reds fought back, the 2-2 result gave Villa (or, at least their fans) new hope. The often uninspired play that’s evolved from Paul Lambert’s willingness to cede his opponents that ball was replaced by a potential to transcend another relegation battle.

Under new manager Pepe Mel, West Brom are hoping for the same. The Baggies currently sit in 15th, only four points above the drop. In their last six Premier League matches, the club’s claimed seven points, collecting four draws to go along with a win over Newcastle and a loss at Sunderland. Though management will be hoping for more as Mel settles into his job, that pace should be enough to avoid relegation.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

But that pace may be forgotten should the Baggies fail to put in a strong performance at Villa Park, with a poor showing against a rival underscoring the transition period management’s elected to endure.

The real pressure, however, will be on the home side. In the middle of a roller coaster season, a loss at home to their rivals would send Aston Villa into another dip, blunting the progress they made at Anfield.

Lineups

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan, Matthew Lawton, Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Ryan Bertrand, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Fabian Delph, Leandro Bacuna, Andreas Weimann, Chrstian Benteke

Subs: Jed Steer, Nathan Baker, Yacouba Sylla, Sami Helenius, Mark Albrighton, Grant Holt, Aleksandar Tonev

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Steven Reid, Diego Lugano, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell, James Morrison, Claudio Yacob, Youssouf Mulumbu, Nicolas Anelka, Victor Anichebe, Chris Brunt

Subs: Boaz Myhill, Billy Jones, Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans, Matej Vydra, Saido Berahino, Morgan Amalfitano

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Aston Villa: Early Shane Long double not enough as Villa fights back at The Hawthorns

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For the second straight derby, 2-0 wasn’t good enough. In January, it was Aston Villa who’d gone up two at The Hawthorns only to be pulled back to 2-2. This time, the hosts’ two goals in the first 11 minutes didn’t hold up. A triple substitution from Paul Lambert early in the second half helped spur his team’s comeback, Aston Villa able to take a 2-2 draw from rival West Bromwich Albion.

The Baggies were on the board after three minutes, Shane Long converting off a long ball from Chris Brunt to give the home side and early lead. Long completed his double eight minutes later with a close range chip over Brad Guzan, forging a lead the hosts would hold for nearly an hour.

Then, Karim El Ahmadi got Villa onto the scoresheet, with the visitors being brought all the way back when Ashley Westwood scored his first career goal in the 76th minute. For the second time in as many derbies, West Brom and Villa were destined to finish 2-2.

The result leaves both teams where they started, as far as the Premier League table is concerned. Eleventh and 12th coming into today’s action, West Brom and Villa stay at the edge of the league’s top half, now sitting one point behind 10th place Swansea City.

Playing long and direct early, Steve Clarke’s team took advantage of Villa’s three-man back line,  Brunt’s third minute ball from well inside his own half finding Long for the game’s first chance. The West Brom attacker brilliantly brought the ball down onto his left foot and shot before Villa keeper Guzan could get in position. Curling his try inside the left post, the Ireland international had the hosts up shortly after kickoff.

Long would be a threaten throughout the first half hour, but thanks to Leandro Bacuna’s help, it took him only eight minutes to complete his double. A poor pass from the right flank back toward the middle saw Long intercept the ball and go in toward goal. Drawing Guzan off his line in front of the right post, Long chipped off the bottom of the crossbar and in, giving West Brom a surprisingly easy 2-0 lead.

The next 20 minutes saw a series of half-chances for Long’s hat trick before Villa settled in. Even then, the Claret and Blue were unable to mount any meaningful threats on goal, leading Paul Lambert to make a rare triple substitution 12 minutes into the second half. By that time, West Brom’s edges in shots and shots on target had evened out, but the match was still decidedly the Baggies’.

Lambert’s move nearly paid off within two minutes, with a deflected shot from Andreas Wiemann forcing Boaz Myhill into a reflex push wide of his left post. When Villa followed up with a blast from Fabian Delph (eventually blocked), the visitors seemed to have uncovered some momentum. Within minutes, however, West Brom had regained their legs, generating a chance for Stephane Sessegnon from the edge of the six. For the second time on the night, the Beninese midfielder missed his chance to make it 3-0.

Those misses began haunting West Brom in the 67th minute when Villa pulled one back. Weimann, playing a cross from Bacuna, headed down for El Ahmadi, who finished from eight yards out to pull Villa within one.

Though Villa maintained control of the match, the game seemed to stabilized until a benign 76th minute cross from Christian Benteke was blindly cleared toward the middle by left back Goran Popov. Collecting the ball just outside the West Brom area, Westwood beat Myhill into the right of goal, the Baggies’ keeper given little chance to prevent the first Premier League goal of the 23-year-old’s career. For the second straight derby, a 2-0 lead had proven meaningless.

By the final whistle, the match had swung again, Clarke’s late changes pinning the guests in their own end. But the chances never came, leaving West Brom on the other side of a derby comeback. Unable to counter Lambert’s triple substitution, the Baggies were left to rue points lost.

Goals

West Bromwich Albion3′, 11′ Long

Aston Villa: 67′ El Ahmadi, 76′ Westwood

Lineups

West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Goran Popov (82′ Victor Anichebe); Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob; Morgan Amalfitano, Stephane Sessegnon (73′ James Morrison), Chris Brunt; Shane Long

Ununsed subs: Luke Daniels, Matej Vydra, Craig Dawson, Saido Berahino, Nicolas Anelka

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker; Aleksandr Tonev (57′ Andreas Weimann), Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Yacouba Sylla (57′ Fabian Delph), Leandro Bacuna; Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak (57′ Gabriel Agbonlahor)

Unused subs: Jed Steer, Chris Herd, Jed Bowery, Matthew Lowton