- Tshibola’s late header cancels out Elphick own goal
- Two former Premier League sides produce all-action affair
- Fourth successive draw for Villa
- Newcastle drop points for third time in league this term
AARON Tshibola’s late equaliser earned Aston Villa a morale-boosting point as Newcastle United were left to rue a host of missed opportunities at Villa Park.
The substitute headed in his first Villa goal from a Jordan Ayew corner two minutes from time.
In a pulsating clash between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season, Newcastle were in complete control for long periods and looked set for a seventh win in nine league games as Villa captain Tommy Elphick turned DeAndre Yedlin’s cross into his own net in the first half.
But Mohamed Diame and Dwight Gayle passed up crucial chances for the visitors before Villa rallied late on and could have won it themselves.
Rafael Benitez’s side, considered favourites by many to win the title this term, remain fifth after their first league draw of the season – five points adrift of leaders Norwich, who they welcome to St James’ Park on Wednesday night.
Although their winless run extends to six games, Villa – without the injured Ross McCormack and ill-disciplined Jack Grealish – will be encouraged by their improved second-half display as they moved on to nine points from as many league matches this term.
For the first time in the second-tier, two Champions League winning managers went head-to-head – and Villa boss Roberto di Matteo will undoubtedly be the happier after seeing his side put under severe pressure in the first period.
Villa – who handed a first start to Albert Adomah – had started relatively well, with the former Middlesbrough winger releasing Jonathan Kodija down the right in the opening stages.
But the £15m summer buy from Bristol City cut inside unnecessarily, which allowed former Villa defender Ciaran Clark to get a block in.
Before long, the Magpies – who responded to last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat against Wolves by beating the same opponents in the EFL Cup in midweek – seized command and ran Villa’s three-man backline ragged with their movement in the final third.
This was emphasised when Elphick, wary of Gayle lurking with intent behind him, diverted Yedlin’s centre beyond Pierluigi Gollini just before the half-hour mark.
The ex-Bournemouth centre-back almost gifted Newcastle a second straight away when dwelling on the ball but Gayle could not finish one-on-one against Gollini.
With the hosts all over the place, Nathan Baker then had to make a crucial intervention when a menacing Gayle bore down on goal before Diame fired waywardly over after Gollini blocked a Matt Ritchie effort.
The only edgy moment for a dominant Newcastle in the first period came when Jonjo Shelvey was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for leaping into a challenge on Ashley Westwood in a reckless manner.
Clearly concerned by the visitors’ superiority, di Matteo threw on former Reading midfielder Tshibola in place of Baker and switched to a back four at the break.
There wasn’t an immediate change in pattern, as Newcastle pushed for the insurance goal to kill off the hosts.
The influential Shelvey tested Gollini from range before intelligently setting up Diame, but the former West Ham and Hull midfielder couldn’t open his Magpies account, slicing a glorious chance wide from 12 yards.
The visitors were given a warning about complacency when Mile Jedinak was left free to head in Ayew’s pinpoint free-kick but was flagged offside.
Villa, who sent on top scorer Rudy Gestede for Adomah, had firmly sprung into life and Ayew came within inches of a spectacular goal when his rasping right-footer from 20 yards clipped the post.
But the forward played his part when the resurgent hosts levelled up, as his well-flighted corner picked out Tshibola and the summer signing – who was correctly booked for diving minutes earlier – escaped Isaac Hayden’s attentions to head home from two yards.
Having been on top for so long, it was Newcastle hanging on for dear life during six minutes of stoppage time, as an impassive Benitez was left to reflect on his side’s failure to add to their slender advantage.
However, it could be a significant turning point for Villa, who themselves have struggled to see out positive results this term, after fighting back from the abyss to secure a draw they feel was merited in the end.
Aston Villa 1 (Tshibola 88′)
Newcastle United 1 (Elphick 28′ og)
Substitutes: Tshibola (on for Baker 45′), Gestede (on for Adomah 63′) and Hepburn-Murphy (on for Westwood 86′).
Not used: Bunn (GK), Hutton, Richards, Cissokho.
Booked: Chester (41′), Baker (44′), Tshibola (79′)
Substitutes: Tiote (on for Yedlin 75′) and Mitrovic (on for Gayle 80′).
Not used: Darlow (GK), Hanley, Lazaar, Atsu, Perez.
Booked: Shelvey (27′)
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Manchester) – 8/10
Assistant referees: Nick Greenhalgh & James Mainwaring (Lancashire)
Fourth official: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)
Aston Villa manager Roberto di Matteo:
“I said [at half-time] lets just put them under pressure and lets ask some questions. We changed the formation a little bit as well and managed to get more of a hold of the ball and created some real problems for Newcastle. I really thought that towards the end we would have the opportunity to win the game as well. We had plenty of chances and we got into very good positions. Just the last pass was missing, but there was somebody at the end of the last cross.”
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez:
“Di Matteo will have another vision of the second-half, but the first-half we were so dominant that we could finish the game and then we would be sat here talking about another thing. But that is football, you have to take your chances. We had to defend better second-half, but you have to give credit to them. The positives for our team were in the first-half and the negatives were in the second as we allowed them to stay in the game.”