Monday, September 19, 2011

Stunning Shay keeps Cab at bay

Aston Villa 1 - 1 Newcastle Utd

A goal from Leon Best ensured our unbeaten start to the season continued on Saturday, but only fine work by Shay Given in the home side's goal prevented us from leaving with all three points.

With Newcastle starting well, the home side took the lead against the run of play early in the first half, when Gabriel Agbonlahor's shot was blocked by Sideshow Bob, only for the ball to fall well for the home striker to slot the ball under the advancing Tim Krul, with our captain now helpless on the floor.

That goal, and a glaring miss by Darren Bent (shooting wide with the goal at his mercy), suggested that Villa might continue their recent good record against us on this ground, but the reality was that their attacking forays were few and far between as Newcastle dominated the middle of the park - with Mr T and Yohan Cabaye seizing control of the midfield and running the game beautifully.

Several times Cabaye threatened the Villa goal, only to see the ball crash off the woodwork or find Given in magnificent form, producing stunning save after stunning save to keep his side in it. Our erstwhile Irish custodian was unable to prevent our equaliser though, with Mr T's fine cross headed goalwards by Leon Best. Given parried the initial header, but could do nothing when Best slammed home the rebound from point blank range.

Frustratingly though, we couldn't find a way past Given for a second time, despite Cabaye's best efforts, with the Frenchman chipping over our last chance of the match as the clock ran down, once again under pressure from our former 'keeper.

Satisfyingly for Alan Pardew, though, was the sight of our first-choice central midfield pairing seizing control of the match and not letting it go, with Mr T's strength and Cabaye's guile dovetailing superbly. At the back, the entire back four enjoyed a good game (Ryan Taylor included) and up front Best again notched a goal to enhance his claim to be our first-choice striker.

If Demba Ba could only start scoring, we might be in danger of getting excited.

As it is, a point was all we could manage, but after Sunday's results we remained in fourth place on nine points. Only 31 to go until we reach safety, but if the midfield continue to play like that, we could start to dream of a higher finish.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Blogger Ben said...

Considerable improvement on Monday night, when neither Cabaye nor Mr T were at the races. Cabaye's been largely quality thus far this season, but it was especially pleasing to see Mr T rediscovering some of last season's form.

Can't currently argue with Best being our main man at the moment - Big Lad and Ba need to up their game if they're not to be displaced by the fit-again Hatem Ben Arfa.

10:42 p.m.  

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