It’s been a long time coming but finally, at the 18th attempt, Newcastle have managed to win an away game this season.
Goals from Papiss Cisse ans Yohan Cabaye proved to be enough before Christian Benteke gave the hosts some hope with an early second-half penalty but it was United held out to grab the three points and drop Villa into the relegation zone. Nice poetry there…
There were also debuts for three of our four recent signing with only Massadio Haidara missing out on making an appearance, and the early signs were good. Moussa Sissoko looked quality and picked out a fine ball to set up Cisse for the opening goal, Yoan Gouffran acquitted himself well and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa came off the bench to help shore things up in the final 20 minutes or so.
However for me it was one of our older heads who had the biggest influence on the game. Fabricio Coloccini has had a lot of stick recently but he was superb tonight. Not just his defending, but also his rallying of the players albeit not as vocal as perhaps some would like. He gave 100% tonight which is all that can be asked.
The first effort on goal fell to new boy Sissoko although his long-range effort flew over the bar. However it wasn’t long before the home side tested the water in the attacking sense and Fabricio Coloccini had to be on hand to deal with a Christian Benteke cross. Davide Santon forced a save from Brad Guzan before United took the lead in the 19th minute. The Italian passed to Sissoko who threaded a superb ball through for Papiss Cisse to run on to and fire through the legs of Guzan giving United a deserved lead.
Newcastle continued to impose themselves with some great play but former Magpie Charles N’Zogbia nearly fired Villa level only to see his powerful shot deflect off the post. However full control of the match wasn’t far away and when Ron Vlaar could only clear a Jonas Gutierrez cross as far as the feet of Yohan Cabaye it looked to be game over. The Frenchman took a touch and launched a volley towards goal which left Brad Guzan with no chance of getting anywhere near it as the ball flew into the top corner of the net. 2-0 to United at half-time and cruising. The home side were sent to the changing room with booing ringing in their ears.
That seemed ta have an effect on the home side as they came out looking like they wanted to make a game of it. Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor added some attacking threat for Paul Lambert’s side and fresh from a half-time rollicking Villa soon forced saves from Tim Krul through shots from Benteke and Weimann.
Just four minutes into the second-half and Villa were back in it. Agbonlahor outpaced Mathieu Debuchy and nicked the ball away from the Frenchman whoo really should have been more aware of what was going on. He tripped the Villa forward leaving Mike Dean with little option to award the penalty which Christian Benteke duly dispatched sending Tim Krul the wrong way.
From then on the nerves started to set in and you could tell we hadn’t won away from home since May 2012. Villa had their tails up and searched for the equaliser with Charles N’Zogbia rattling the side-netting with a shot.
However for all Villa’s huff and puff they were unable to blow the United house down. They had plenty of the ball and had the territorial advantage but rarely really threatened the United goal. That being said Jonas Gutierrez had to be on hand to clear off the line and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made a smart block tackle on Ciaran Clark, but it was Newcastle who put bodies on the line to make sure the three points came back home to Tyneside.
I’m sure some tactical whizzkids out there will be quick to point of that we weren’t great in the second-half, which is true, but Villa were hardly going to roll over and let us tickle their tummies after such an abject first-half showing. Add to that the fact that we had players playing either for the first time, first couple of times, or returning from injury and you can perhaps see why things started to run away from us.
Remember this is Debuchy’s third game for us, Cabaye has just come back from three months out, Sissoko and Gouffran probably haven’t played a game at such intensity in their life plus we had Steen Taylor who hasn’t played since November. Sometimes it isn’t always our own fault and things just work against you a bit and we had a lot of players out there just not up to speed. Also bear in mind, if you are going to have a pop at Shola, don’t forget the 25 minutes of us being dominated BEFORE his arrival…
Having said that there was a lot of grit and determination out there on our part which has been missing on occasion this season. It’s nice to see it make an appearance just when we need it to. If we can combine that with some of the play we witnessed in the first-half it won’t be long before we start pulling away from the relegation struggle. Hopefully.
Howay the lads!
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Ciaran Clark, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett; Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood, Barry Bannan, Charles N’Zogbia; Christian Benteke, Darren Bent
Subs: Shay Given, Eric Lichaj, Brett Holman, Jordan Bowery, Stephen Ireland, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; James Perch, Yohan Cabaye; Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Steve Harper, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mike Williamson, Gael Bigirimana, Vurnon Anita, Sammy Ameobi, Shola Ameobi