Newcastle’s fixture against Aston Villa brought the return of the two Demba’s from the disappointment of Senegal’s African Cup of Nations campaign. While neither managed to find the back of the net during the tournament it was a welcome boost for Alan Pardew and Newcastle that they were back and available. Demba Ba started the match alongside Leon Best in a 4-4-2 formation, with new signing Papiss Demba Cissé settling for a place on the bench.
It wasn’t long however before Cissé was called upon to make his debut as Leon Best went off injured with suspected medial knee ligament damage after only 12 minutes of the game had passed. This was probably an earlier introduction than Alan Pardew had planned but it took the new number 9 only a couple of minutes to test the Villa keeper with a header that was easily collected.
With almost 30 minutes of the half gone it was Cissé’s striker partner Ba that opened the scoring after good play from Guthrie, crossing from the left; the ball wasn’t cleared by Villa and Ryan Taylor’s shot across the face of goal was expertly controlled and finished in two swift movements by Ba to score his 16th goal of the season. The bad news was that Stephens Warnock’s late challenge in the lead up to the goal on Ryan Taylor resulted in the player being stretchered off to be replaced by Gabriel Obertan.
As the first half drew to a close it was Villa having the better of the chances, only to be foiled by Tim Krul’s expert shot stopping. With the fourth official indicating 6 minutes of additional time Villa scored with almost the last kick of the half. Gutierrez losing possession on the half way line and with the Newcastle defence out of position, former Toon player Charles N’Zogbia received the ball from Robbie Keane and got to the by-line before cutting the ball back allowing Keane the simplest of tap-ins. On reflection it was by no means more than Villa deserved as they created the best of the chances in what was a fairly even first half.
The second half started with Newcastle coming out of the blocks quickly with both Demba’s pressurising but unable to take advantage of the Aston Villa defence struggling to clear their lines. The half progressed with Newcastle having more and more possession as Villa sat deeper and looked to counter attack with pace. Newcastle had few chances with Obertan looking menacing down the right flank and shooting off target.
It wasn’t long before Newcastle re-took the lead through good interplay between Santon and Gutierrez down the left, which looks to be a promising partnership that many fans might not have expected with the summer departure of former left back José Enrique. Davide Santon released Gutierrez down the left flank with the winger opting to put the ball into the box early. The cross was picked up by Cissé who controlled the ball on his chest and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.
As the match wore on Newcastle’s defence held strong to hold out for another 3 points with Villa’s best chance falling to Emile Heskey from a Barry Bannan cross that Krul saved and clung onto at the second attempt.
The 3 points see Newcastle move up to 5th place on 42 points ahead of Champions League chasing Arsenal and Liverpool. The next game against Tottenham will prove a tough challenge but with the resilience shown all season by Newcastle United they will feel that they can come away with something from the game.
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