It was a game played by two sides playing Championship football, with a Championship level ref and it was quite apt that it should be decided by a player on loan from a Championship team.
Lambert harped on this pre-season about how his side would be super fit this season and would wear down opponents, but by the way Villa have conceded late goals this season and the way some of the players were huffing at the end it seems more like lip service.
Newcastle came out of the gates all bullets blazing as shots rained from all distance with a shoot on sight policy obviously in effect. Nothing threatened the goal though.
Villa weathered the storm and created 5 great chances in the opening 20 minutes. El Ahmadi crossed three perfect passes across the face of the goal, somehow nobody got a touch. Agbonlahor hit a shot that was too high and Krul gathered too easily. Then he hit a cracking shot over the bar from outside the area. Bacuna had two free kick opportunities, but got nothing out of them.
Before half-time Newcastle should have been 1 up. Cisse somehow struck over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Pardew adapted and decided to cut off Villa’s route one attack by crowding Benteke out after an inevitable flick on. Meanwhile, they stopped running offside with every attack, holding their runs a little.
Lambert made no noticeable changes. Finally he was forced to change something as Westwood was forced off. The former Crewe man was controlling the midfield and the loss was a blow. The shift forced Delph, having his worst game of the season, into Westwood’s position and Sylla came on and Villa’s left side immediately weakened.
The atmosphere ratcheted up a notch or two after a poor decision by referee Atkinson. Vlaar called for a free kick after he clearly won the entire ball. It wasn’t his first questionable decision. He had earlier booked Vlaar on an innocuous challenge on the edge of the area in the first half, his first foul. El Ahmadi was booked for his second foul, again it was minor. Meanwhile Tiote had committed 5 fouls, two of them leaving the player on the ground needing treatment before the ref showed him a card. Later Bertrand went in with a two footed challenge, leaving his feet and the ref let it slide.
Back to the free kick, it hit the wall before being launched into the box where Guzan grabbed it and sent a great kick to Benteke, who broke a tackle and waited a split second late to release Gabby and the defender could guess it and intercepted, Newcastle then launched their own attack and again it looked like Villa would hold on for a deserved point.
Newcastle felt it had a penalty claim on Bacuna’s alleged handball, but replays showed he was trying to get his hand out of the way and evidence was inconclusive as to him actually touching the ball.
Bennett was on for Bertrand, but it was Bacuna the looked the one gasping for air at the end.
Baker and Vlaar had been masterful at the back but Vlaar had a nightmare last 3 minutes. First he messed around with the ball instead of putting it out for a throw on the bye-line in the area. DeJong won the ball played back to Remy who somehow hit the post with the goal wide open again.
In the 2nd minute of injury time, it looked like Villa had it in hand. Newcastle twice gave Vila the ball, but the away side failed to clear. Bennett received the second gift, but played the ball inside instead of out to the wing, Newcastle’s left back got a deflection on the ball and ended up being able to swing a hopeful ball in the box. Bacuna got there first but his attempted clearance was woeful, Vlaar then challenged Remy, poorly and REMY easily side stepped him and smashed the ball past Guzan for Newcastle’s first goal in 3 home meetings.
Villa now needs a rare thing, a home win against Norwich. On the bright side, Lerner can cut more expenses to increase his profits. Villa can now sell its scoreboard and fire the score keeper as both are totally redundant.
Guzan: Good game as usual, but wish I could turn back time and tell Guzan not to dive on Remy’s shot, would have been straight at him.
Bacuna: Not sure what Lowton has done to lose his place, but Bacuna did play well. Just miss the cutting passes and crosses Lowton produces.
Vlaar: An almost perfect game until a bizarre final 2 minutes.
Baker: Really good game.
Bertrand: Good at the back, forced Newcastle to attack the left more, which is opposite to opponents in games prior to his arrival. Not great going forward.
Westwood: Intelligent game, great aggression. One absolutely sublime piece of control in the first half, that was worth half the admission price just to see it.
Delph: Kept giving the ball away. A pitiful shot was his only contribution.
El Ahmadi: Faded in the second half, but pretty good in the first, especially going forward.
Agbonlahor: Bottled up a lot, but dangerous on his few forays.
Weimann: Very ordinary, what’s Albrighton done now?
Benteke: Wins headers, and then shows no interest unless there is a chance of a cross into the box, which is few from our fullbacks, so pretty useless having him out there.
Sylla: Horrible on the left. Slow and he seems to lose interest when defending.
Bennett: Good with the ball going forward, useless in defence. He needs to look at his role in the goal.
Co-Commentator Pleat: Revised our team. Gooseman in goal. Nathan Clark partnered Vlaar and Michael Delph moved into Westwoods role.