Victory over Newcastle sees Villa jump to 14th in the Premier League
A first half header by defender James Collins was enough to hand Aston Villa all three points and ease the relegation fears that Gerard Houllier’s side have been suffering from lately, as they claimed a home victory over Newcastle United.
Villa made one change to their starting line-up, with captain Stiliyan Petrov returning to replace Nigel Reo-Coker, who was forced to settle for a place on the home bench.
Alan Pardew also had his own issues with his starting eleven, as he was forced to move Argentinean defender Fabricio Coloccini into a midfield berth, with top scorer Kevin Nolan missing due to suspension.
In Coloccini’s place at the heart of the Newcastle defence was Steven Taylor, while Jose Enquire also came back into the side to slot into his left back slot, replacing Shane Ferguson who settled for a place on the bench. Shola Ameobi also missed out for the visitors, with Nile Ranger taking his place next to Peter Lovenkrands in the Newcastle attack.
The first half started off slowly, with the home support showing a real nervousness - perhaps a reflection of the Midlands side's struggles under Houllier. That tension transmitted onto the pitch as Villa failed to settle in the opening minutes, allowing the visitors to dictate possession nearly on.
Unfortunately for Newcastle they could not find either Ranger or Lovenkrands as the pair were snuffed out easily by the Villa backline of Collins and Richard Dunne, leaving keeper Brad Friedel with little to do during the half.
Newcastle had the first real chance of the game as Coloccini raced from his central midfield position to find Ranger, who had got clear of Collins, but the striker could only place his shot into the midriff of Friedel in the Villa goal.
Halfway through the first half Villa opened the scoring after stand-in captain Joey Barton gave a free-kick away, allowing Ashley Young to whip a ball straight towards Collins, who directed his header into the bottom corner, beyond Steve Harper in the Newcastle goal, much to the relief of the home support.
Houllier’s side began to boss the game from there on with Young hitting a corner kick onto the head of Dunne, who in turn nodded the ball toward Gabriel Agbonlahor, but the striker could not direct the ball past Harper who managed to clear.
During the last ten minutes of the game England striker Darren Bent had two chances to double the home side’s lead, as firstly he headed a Stewart Downing cross from the left hand side over the bar from six yards out.
Then the hitman was caught offside as he finished past Harper after having received the ball from Jean Makoun, who had beaten three Newcastle players in order to set up the chance for the former Sunderland striker.
Good head | James Collins celebrates his first half opening header for Villa
The home side started the second period as they had finished the first, with Agbonlahor raced into the penalty area from the left hand side, before unleashing a strike that Harper was forced to push away to safety to keep his side from going two goals down.
Then minutes later the home side had another great chance as Ashley Young received the ball midway inside the Newcastle half, before racing towards the box and hitting a powerful strike that had Harper scrambling as the ball went just wide of his right hand post.
Just before the hour mark the home fans were off their feet looking for a penalty as Bent looked to be brought down as he entered the box, but referee Stuart Atwell decided there was no contact and awarded a goal kick to the visitors.
With his side failing to create anything, Newcastle manager Pardew decided to make a change by taking off Steven Taylor and replacing him with Ryan Taylor as they looked for a way back into the game.
The home side continued to pepper the visitors’ goal, with Harper having to be on top form in order to save the North-East side from being comprehensively beaten. And with only being one goal ahead, the nervousness experienced by the home fans in the first half was back, as they watched their side fail to finish off Newcastle.
Villa continued to dominate Newcastle for the reminder of the game, but they could not find a way past the visitors’ backline, as it was Newcastle who were the dominant side late on,with Lovenkrands going close and Ryan Taylor putting a free kick over the bar.
By claiming all three points the home side managed to get themselves further away from the drop zone as they now go into 14th place in the Premier League.
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