Both Aston Villa and Newcastle retained their unbeaten starts to the season at Villa Park this afternoon, but it should have been Newcastle who spoiled the party by claiming all three points from the second city.
The away side were much improved in comparison to recent performances and finally started to show glimpses of what some people have been saying all along – this team has potential.
Although it’s important not to get too carried after just one performance, irrespective of how impressive it was, I have to say that Yohan Cabaye was excellent in the middle of the park and was unlucky not to score at least one goal after forcing one fantastic save from Shay Given, cracking another fantastic shot off the Villa crossbar and wasting a glorious opportunity after his movement had created the perfect passing opportunity for Sylvain Marveaux to find him at the far post.
I’ll go into the match in a bit more detail below, but to highlight just how much the match was dominated by NUFC I thought I’d pluck some match stats from The Guardian out and present them to you before I get going on the report.
|Shots at goal||11||22|
|Shots on target||2||6|
The visitors started off brightly and looked neat and assured in possession. Yohan Cabaye was first to have a crack at the Villa goal just six minutes in although his shot swerved wide of Shay Given’s right post. Ryan Taylor tried another one of his “over the wall” specials only for it not to be so special this time and actually find the wall instead, while Gabriel Obertan sent former Mag Shay Given backpeddling and forced him to tip over a dangerous shot-cum-cross.
All of that in the opening 12 minutes contributed to a bright start for Newcastle. It was more than just the attempts at goal that was impressive though as Newcastle controlled pretty much all of the opening exchanges with a combination of measured tackling and clever passing. It was much improved from Monday night at QPR, even at this early juncture.
The predictable kick in the nuts arrived soon after though when Barry Bannan crossed in from the left for Gabriel Agbonlahor who found his first time shot at goal blocked by Fabricio Coloccini. Unfortunately for the Argie the loose ball fell kindly for the Villa man who calmly slid the ball past Tim Krul from six or so yards out. By Colo’s usual standards it was an error and he could have dealt with it better first time round
I said at the time that I wondered if we would get back into the game. Despite the dominance, which continued after the Villa goal by the way, we never really looked like scoring. Essentially we weren’t doing anything wrong, it was just that the final pass or ball just wasn’t coming off for one reason or another.
It nearly hurt us further when Stiliyan Petrov squared the ball for Darren Bent eight yards out only for the former Mackem to scuff his shot wide when it seemed easier to score. With 26 minutes gone a second goal would have been terminal to our hopes of getting a draw. We escaped that one although it could be argued that with the way we had been paying we deserved a slice of luck.
Newcastle did have chances of their own however. Steven Taylor forced a fine save from Shay Given when he volleyed at goal from a Yohan Cabaye corner. Then Jonas Gutierrez spooned over from inside the box when he really should have tested the keeper before Demba Ba had a shot on the turn deflected over the bar.
It wasn’t enough though and the hosts went in for their half-time brew 1-0 up.
Villa made a better start to the second half and could have extended their lead had Agbonlahor not stabbed narrowly wide in the 47th minute. The home sides reprisal didn’t last long however and Newcastle were soon back on top with Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote combining to great effect through the middle.
In fact it was the latter of the two who can claim an assist for the equaliser for their efforts. Yohan Cabaye smacked a shot towards goal which beat Shay Given all ends up only for the ball to bounce back off the crossbar. Cheik Tiote managed to get hold of the resulting loose ball and swung a cross in from the left for Leon Best who aimed his point blank header straight at Shay Given only to benefit from being in the right place in the right time for the rebound which was duly despatched into the back of the net.
I don’t know what it is about Best. He is by no means the ‘best’ player we’ve had, but he has a damn good knack of being in the right place at the right time. At this moment in time he is on course to better Andy Carroll’s Premier League goal return for us, in less games I’ll hasten to add.
From the moment Leon Best equalised there was only going to be one winner, and it wasn’t the home side. Newcastle continued to dominate although they nearly became the architects of their own downfall when a mistake by Steven Taylor allowed Darren Bent a shot at goal. Fortunately his chip had neither the power or direction to cost us which allowed Taylor to get back and make amends for his error.
Further chances followed for Newcastle through Yohan Cabaye who forced another fine save from Given after unleashing a fierce volley at goal. And the Frenchman very nearly opened his account his scoring account yet again for the Toon when his clever movement in the dying moments opened up a pass for Marveuax to find Cabaye at the far post although unfortunately he fired over after a nice little chest down.
There was even a moment of controversy when Sammy Ameobi had a fantastic goal disallowed thanks to the interference from the Assistant Referee who, despite being further away from the action than the actual referee, somehow managed to over-rule his superior which forced play to be called back after Ameobi Jnr had nailed the Villa defence and found the back of the net with an acute finish over Shay Given.
All in all it’s a point well deserved. We were very good today and could have easily taken all three points away from Villa Park. Still, we remain undefeated, and with a home game against Blackburn following the midweek trip to Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup we have the perfect opportunity to extend that run of unbeaten form.
Howay the lads!
Aston Villa: Shay Given, Alan Hutton, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Barry Bannan, Stiliyan Petrov, Fabien Delph, Charles N’Zogbia, Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor
Subs: Brad Guzan, Nathan Delfouneso, Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd, Shane Lowry, Gary Gardner
Newcastle United: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor; Gabriel Obertan, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Demba Ba, Leon Best
Subs: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Danny Guthrie, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands