Newcastle United 0 Aston Villa 0
(English Premier League, August 18th, 2007)
Newcastle United: Harper, Carr, Rozehnal, Martins, N’Zogbia, Milner, Smith, Geremi, Butt, Taylor, Viduka. Subs: Cacapa, Owen, Ameobi, Ramage, Forster.
Aston Villa: Carson, Bouma, Mellberg, Laursen, Barry, Young, Carew, Agbonlahor, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Gardner. Subs: Moore, Harewood, Taylor, Cahill, Maloney.
Referee: Howard Web
David Rozehnal – Another solid display at the heart of Newcastle’s defense with Steven Taylor
It was a real battle at St. James’ Park today as Aston Villa came fully prepared to put up an all-out performance against the Magpies. Villa started fast from the kick-off and were the better team in the first 10 minutes and they were winning nearly all the 50-50 balls.
Obviously O’Neil had seen the game last week at Bolton and had his team all ready for a quick Newcastle start. There were a couple of breaks down Villa’s left wing by Ashley Young and he had the beating of Carr for pace. It looked like Villa were targeting Newcastle’s right flank as the weakness.
Then from a corner after 11 minutes Laursen got in a free header, and Harper made an excellent instinctive save as the ball hit the keeper’s chest and was cleared. This was a lucky escape by Newcastle and bad marking at the corner. N’Zogbia was making some penetrating runs down the left but invariably his final ball was never telling enough. Charles is looking very comfortable at left back.
Villa really should have gone ahead after 31 minutes when Agbonlahor was straight through – but amazingly screwed his shot wide of Harper’s left hand post. Reo-Coker was in oceans of space inside the winger and screaming for the ball. It was a bad miss by Villa at a time when they were worth a goal because of their pressure.
There seems to be too much room being left on Newcastle’s right side and Villa were making good use of this space â€“ trying to play in Young continually. Aston Villa are looking the better team after the first 35 minutes but the Newcastle defense are holding strong while being put under pressure.
After 36 minutes a free kick from the Newcastle right breaks free to Rozehnal on the left about 15 yards from goal and the center-back hits a bullet left foot shot to Carson’s right but the young keeper brings off a wonderful save. Newcastle were rather lucky to be all square at half-time and only a solid defensive performance especially from both center-backs ensured a clean sheet at the break.
In the second half Newcastle had more of the game and both teams were battling for the one goal that surely would give them victory.
After 61 minutes Harper produced a wonderful one-handed full length save, to deflect the ball just wide of his left hand post. That was the second excellent save from the goalkeeper – who looked calm and never put a foot wrong throughout the game.
After 63 minutes Owen was introduced for Martins to great applause and then Ameobi after 77 minutes, came on for the hard-working and physical Viduka, who put everything he had into this game as did most of the Newcastle team.
Referee Web blew the whistle after 3 minutes of added time for a very hard fought point by both sides. The draw was probably a fair result although Villa were surprisingly good and able to match Newcastle’s grit and determination for the full 90 minutes. New signing Cacapa was introduced for skipper Geremi after 90 minutes to become Newcastle’s 1,000th player in their history â€“ quite an historic start for the Brazilian.
Credit to Newcastle for a strong display in defense in which Rozehnal and Taylor were outstanding and goalkeeper Harper didn’t have too much to do – but made brilliant saves in each half to keep the clean sheet.There’s not many teams that will be able to play this well at St. James’ Park this season and match Newcastle industry and hard-fought play.
But Aston Villa played very well this afternoon and deserved their point. For Newcastle this was a game in which the defense – because of their solidity and determination – got Newcastle a good point. In seasons gone by there would have been no way they could have withstood the Villa onslaught.
Credit to both teams for a gritty and spirited performance.