Vital Match Report, Newcastle v Villa
St James Park or whatever they call it now
Attendance: 48 245
After Villa's mauling at the hands of a resurgent Everton the Barcodes could be forgiven for expecting an easy three points. Cisse and Ba probably fancied their chances against a defence that has already shipped four goals, with their fans smelling blood. It just goes to show then that -with inflammatory relegation predictions already aimed at Villa and fans railing against lower league buys- that after two games such talk is no more than twaddle.
Indeed, if it was not for a Hatema Ben Arfa wonder strike on 59 minutes stealing the headlines Villa's dominance would have been all the talk of the Toon. Although Newcastle conjured some threatening moves during he game, with Cabaye conducting from midfield they offered little that was mopped up by Vlaar and Co. Cisse was unable to convert probably his best chance, Guzan saving expertly to deny the Newcastle hitman, on a ground where Villa have not fared well. Strike partner Ba offered little threat having been well managed throughout by a steely back four showing. Special mention for Matt Lowton here who was tremendous up and down the flank all afternoon.
It was Villa's passing game though that left Newcastle having to adapt and change formation as they sought an answer to the visitor's short, sharp well threaded interplay, with contract seeking Ireland once again pulling the strings from the middle. Though it was Holman who set the tempo, harrying and chasing down the ball like a man possessed. As competition for places heats up at Bodymoor Heath his performance will not be lost on Lambert -and on this outing neither will Bannan's. The diminutive Scott put in a sterling performance at inside left/left midfield supplying a beautifully weighted cross for Clark to head home on the 22nd minute.
Villa fans will feel that if not for confidence,Bent would have put the game beyond doubt. Cutting on to his left in the penalty box his low placed shot was parried by Krull's legs early on, with a second good opportunity equally well intercepted toward the end. Bent found himself in space at the edge of the box after another killer counter attack. A lack of confidence led to an extra touch, with the ball begging to be hit first time. Bigirimana was thankful as it enabled him to nick the ball away. Perhaps the best opportunity though came to Ireland ten minutes from the whistle when he wasted both space and time in the box, spooning a clear shot wide. If anything needs to be worked on it is Villa's finishing. The penetration is now starting to come though the final shot will need some work. However, with players now getting into the right positions surely the goals will come and with it more confidence.
Villa fans will be relieved to see the return of Gabriel Agbonlahor. Back in his natural forward position he wasted no time in bursting past a flagging a Coloccini on the break. His touch, speed and power have been greatly missed since the start of the season and will no doubt leave Paul Lambert with a selection headache.
The manager seemed incredibly pleased with the players and a hard earned point. Alan Pardew not so. He may well be scratching his head as he tries to work out how to balance the intense demands of both the Premier League and the marathon that is the newfangled Europa League. On this showing consistency was lacking as was tactical nuance though with players like Cisse, Ba, Ben Arfa and Cabaye in your side Newcastle have the potential to go along way in both.
It is perhaps fare to acknowledge also that Tiote was a big miss for them today as was Ryan Taylor, who has sadly been ruled out for the season. Titoe's power and force will be crucial as they go forward in both competitions.