Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 0 Saturday 28 February 3pm
I think the highlight of this game for many Newcastle fans wasn’t so much the winning of the game, it was the amusement that it was against Villa and their classless fans. Especially taking into account the perilous position they are in, second bottom of the Premier League and one of the favourites to exit the top division at the end of the season.
The visitors arrived on the back of six straight Premier League defeats, with 14 conceded and 2 scored in those half dozen matches.
The major surprise for me after watching the game, was working out how exactly they’d managed to score those two goals…
You can praise the defending in terms of commitment today, as John Carver talked about players putting their ‘bodies on the line’. However, individual mistakes continue to show why Newcastle have conceded more than anybody apart from QPR and Burnley.
Williamson somehow heading the ball backwards and Bentekes unlucky to see his overhead kick saved well by Krul, then the keeper dropping a regulation cross on his six yard line and Coloccini coming to his rescue this time, then the Captain having the final comedy turn, heading a through ball down onto the edge of the eighteen yard box – luckily it falling to N’Zogbia in the final seconds with him wasting their final chance by skying it over the bar.
The Newcastle Head Coach claimed afterwards he’d been brave with his team selection and formation, talking of playing two strikers and two wingers. As usual though, it doesn’t matter who we play and what the claimed formation is, Newcastle always end up with Papiss Cisse out on his own up front and five in midfield.
In a repeat of last weekend, United almost gifted the visitors an instant lead. This time it was two minutes instead of 27 seconds in, but the Villa player was given all the time he needed by Sammy Ameobi to put a low ball across the six yard box which somehow eluded everybody until Daryl Janmaat did well to turn it for a corner rather than into his own net.
Predictably Benteke was the constant/sole focus of Villa’s attacks and Newcastle struggled to deal with the ball played to him long or short in that first half. He sent a couple just wide as well as the save from Krul.
Newcastle did start with a little enterprise but that quickly faded, with both Ameobi and Obertan failing to beat their man with crosses, while Riviere was almost invisible in open play.
The game drifted towards half-time with United fairly happy surely to be level and fans hoping for changes in players and/or formation at the break.
Then came a decent cross from the right, defender misses the ball and Papiss Cisse gleefully snaps up his first (and only) chance of the match. No surprises the cross came from Daryl Janmaat, who is by easily Newcastle’s best creator of goals this season, that being the sixth so far this season.
United could then have instantly doubled their lead from a starting point of having looked bereft of creativity. Ameobi’s corner reaching Riviere unmarked ten yards out in the centre of the box, his header floating wide and no defender on the post.
Second half the game opened up a bit as Villa pressed desperately but still neither side looked to have the quality to create or finish.
Krul made a sharp save from Cleverley but arguably the Villa players should have given him no chance from ten yards out. Overall though it looked as though the visitors’ best chance of scoring was a home mistake but despite defensive errors United’s commitment just about pulled them through.
There had been deserved applause for Jonas and his return to the bench earlier but it was substitute Ran Taylor who could and maybe should hav e made the game safe.
A free-kick just outside the box in the centre looked ideal for him to crown his return, but a low shot to the keeper’s right was comfortably turned away by Guzan.
Amusingly former Newcastle winger Charlie N’Zogbia was the villain for both teams. Pantomime style booing from the home crowd was quickly followed by moans and groans from the visiting fans.
He did supply one through ball but Benteke was offside as he put it into the back of the net.
The final action saw that long ball headed down by Coloccini into the path of N’Zogbia on the edge of the box and the moment summing up the 90 minutes (plus 6 which was eventually became 7 minutes of injury time). His half-hearted effort sailing over and Newcastle just about getting away with it.
Hard to believe that Newcastle would have beat many other Premier League teams with this performance and similarly, very hard to see where Villa will get the six wins from that Tim Sherwood has talked about.
I agreed with maybe trying something different today but leaving Ayoze Perez on the bench as part of it just didn’t make sense to me.
Papiss Cisse is yet again being asked to do so much with so little service. Extra flair is desperately needed, with players who can cross the ball, beat a man and shoot. Without the Senegal striker’s unbelievable minutes per goal ratio, United would be in serious trouble.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 50% Newcastle and 50% Villa
Total shots was 14 for Newcastle and Villa 13
Shots on target was Newcastle 5 and Villa 3
While corners was Newcastle 9 and Villa 5
Team: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Haidara (Ryan Taylor 61), Abeid, Sissoko, Obertan (Gouffran 78), Riviere (Perez 73), Ameobi, Cisse
Unused Subs: Woodman, Armstrong, Gutierrez, Anita
Ref: Lee Mason