Newcastle United came away with a vital 3 points away to Aston Villa today against tough opposition in the form of Paul Lambert’s young side.
Newcastle United got off to a pretty quick start to the game and Pardew seemed to follow-up his progressive 4-3-3 formation with some positive instructions to his side as they pressed Aston Villa high up the park, and played the ball on the deck well. Anita in particular was looking very assured in possession and was moving the ball well.
Loic Remy also looked sharp down the left-wing, and in the 17th minute, following some good work from Remy on the left, Newcastle United went ahead, as Remy slipped the ball into Cisse, which then broke to Ben Arfa 4 yards from goal, and all the French winger had to do was slot into an open goal. 1-0 Newcastle United.
Aston Villa, who only really posed some sort of threat on the counter, started to see more of the ball as Newcastle United wanted to consolidate their 1 goal lead. Villa’s chances throughout the half were limited, as Newcastle’s back 4 looked very comfortable.
What was very positive was that Sissoko, Anita and Cabaye were looking pretty decent in their ability to retain and recycle the ball, with Anita showing up in plenty of areas willing to receive and recycle the ball effectively.
Just before the half time whistle went Cabaye could have added to the 1 goal lead as Sissoko’s lofted pass found Cabaye at the edge of the area, but his cross/shot flashed wide.
The second half was a rather different picture however, as Paul Lambert’s men were quick out of the blocks forcing early pressure, pressing the ball high and forcing corners. Whereas Newcastle United came out looking sluggish, and a far cry from the comfortable assured side that had went into the half time break 1 goal to the good.
Newcastle United failed to settle in the second half and were very sloppy in possession. Anita, Sissoko and Cabaye weren’t getting as much time on the ball and were poor in possession, affording Villa more time and space to pick their passes.
In the 54th minute Villa’s pressure began to count as Weimann whipped a dangerous cross into the box finding Agbonglahor who missed an open goal from 2 yards out.
It took United until nearly the hour mark before showing any glimpses of being in the game in the second half as Hatem Ben Arfa ran smartly down the right hand side before turning inside to fire a wicked left foot shot, saved by Guzan in the Villa goal.
Loic Remy began to tire in the second half and was replaced by fellow Frenchman Yoan Gouffran just after the hour mark but only minutes later Villa pressure in the second half counted as Benteke forced home a header from a corner to level the scores at 1-1.
Villa then continued to press and were in the ascendancy, and it began to look all to familiar for Newcastle United.
However, Newcastle United’s only bright spark of the second half, Hatem Ben Arfa, continued his right wing wizardry and after twisting and turning, fired another wicked left footed strike, but this time Guzan couldn’t collect as it broke for Yoan Gouffran to tuck away his first goal of the season, Something that was sure to delight the French forward following his earlier misses this season.
Tiote came on the solidify the midfield and Hatem Ben Arfa continued to cause Villa all sorts of problems as Newcastle held on for a valuable away win that will surely be very important come the end of the season.
All in all we’re happy with the team selection, and how we played in the first half, coupled with the excellent performance of Hatem Ben Arfa who was clearly fired up by his manager’s words. However, we are disappointed with how slack we were for large parts of the second half and are concerned about how well Cisse can slot into this 4-3-3 system in the future.
However, massive 3 points, so we’re smiling! 😀