Newcastle in command as Villa fail to retaliate
Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 2
Newcastle registered their first away win of the campaign to plunge fellow strugglers Aston Villa deeper into the Barclays Premier League relegation mire.
First half goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye put Newcastle in command and ended a sequence of 17 games without a victory away from St. James’ Park in all competitions this season.
All Villa could manage in reply was a Christian Benteke penalty early in the second period.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew handed debuts to the French duo of Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran and the former, also a target for Villa this month, set up the opening goal for Cisse.
His side dominated the opening 45 minutes with Sissoko quickly settling into his central midfield role.
Then Newcastle showed enough know-how and experience to take the sting out of the second period after initially threatening to be over-run by a rejuvenated Villa.
Villa manager Paul Lambert received the backing yesterday of Villa chairman Randy Lerner but the alarm bells continue to ring loudly for his side.
Villa have now lost their last three home league games against fellow strugglers in Wigan, Southampton and now the Magpies.
They have taken just two points from their last seven games in addition to their double cup setback against lower graded Bradford and Millwall.
With no sign of any new signings before the transfer window closes on Thursday, there is a massive question mark over whether the current squad is good enough to survive.
Lambert started Christian Benteke and Darren Bent upfront for the first time in a league match since September.
Villa looked to have strong claims for a penalty after 14 minutes after Benteke ran onto a pass from Bent.
His low cross appeared to strike the hand of Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini but referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Newcastle looked the more assured side and Davide Santon forced the first save of the game from Villa keeper Brad Guzan with a dipping drive.
It came as no surprise when Cisse broke the deadlock for Newcastle after 19 minutes with his seventh goal of the campaign.
Sissoko supplied the telling pass which was seized onto by Cisse.
He kept his composure and drilled a low shot past Guzan into the corner of the net.
Villa tried to retaliate and former Newcastle player Charles N’Zogbia came close to equalising three minutes later.
His 25 yard drive contained too much power for Tim Krul but crashed against the woodwork.
But Newcastle doubled their lead after 31 minutes with a stunning strike from Cabaye.
Villa skipper Ron Vlaar’s headed clearance from a Jonas Gutierrez centre fell straight to the midfielder whose volley from just outside past the box flew past the despairing dive of Guzan.
Benteke created a yard of space for himself with a sharp turn after controlling a centre from Ashley Westwood but he could not keep his shot down.
Lambert made a double half-time substitution with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann replacing Bent and Joe Bennett.
Villa began the second period with more impetus and Krul was twice tested in quick succession, beating out Weimann’s shot on the turn and then parrying Benteke’s fierce drive.
The home side were given a life-line after 48 minutes when Mathieu Debuchy conceded a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Agbonlahor when going away from goal
Up stepped Benteke to send Krul the wrong way from the spot for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Villa were revitalised and N’Zogbia’s rising snap-shot was only inches off target.
Weimann then got clear of the Newcastle defence from Benteke’s pass but Krul was equal to his low drive.
Villa failed to maintain the early impetus of the second period although they continued to dominate territorially.
Jonas Gutierrez cleared a Matt Lowton header off the line as Newcastle held on to claim the three points.