Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 1
- Chris Kavanagh
Ahmed Elmohamady’s late equaliser denied Newcastle United a third straight win in the Premier League and salvaged a point for relegation-threatened Aston Villa.
It was Villa who shaded an opening half low on quality but the visitors found themselves trailing midway through the second, as substitute Dwight Gayle bagged his first goal for United in more than two years.
The frontman’s last Magpies strike came against Chelsea way back in May 2018, but he despatched his one chance of the game with conviction in front of a crowdless Gallowgate End.
It didn’t prove decisive, though, as Elmohamady – himself a second-half replacement – grabbed a precious late goal for Villa, with a point apiece a reasonably fair outcome on the whole.
The Magpies were comfortable winners over Sheffield United on Sunday but were slow to get going against the Blades – and they got off to a similarly lethargic start against Villa. Defender Ezri Konsa whipped in a fine cross from the right early on, which wide-man Trézéguet fired into the ground and over the top. Mbwana Samatta should then have done better after getting up to meet Anwar El Ghazi’s delivery from the same flank, the frontman only able to guide a tame header wide.
It was playmaker Jack Grealish who looked Villa’s liveliest asset, however. The visiting skipper picked out John McGinn with a teasing cross on the half-hour mark, which the Scot steered high of the goal. A couple of minutes later, a neat bit of footwork from Grealish created a shooting chance for Matt Targett, but the full back’s daisycutter failed to test Martin Dúbravka.
United, meanwhile, created next to nothing until the end of the half. Joelinton – fresh from netting his first top-flight goal at St. James’ on Sunday – almost found himself clean through after 38 minutes, with Villa centre half Tyrone Mings having to produce a last-gasp block. Matt Ritchie soon brought ‘keeper Ørjan Nyland into action for the first time, stinging the palms of the Norwegian from 18 yards.
Newcastle’s first real chance of the game didn’t arrive until the early stages of the second half, though. Danny Rose found himself wide open inside the Villa penalty area and calmly cut the ball back for Miguel Almirón, who probably ought to have let fly first-time. Instead, the United attacker saw his shot blocked after taking an extra touch, and a decent opportunity went begging.
Midway through the half, though, two substitutions – one enforced – swung the pendulum the Magpies’ way. Andy Carroll – a replacement for Ritchie, who left the pitch hobbling – did superbly to pick out Gayle with a low pass from the right, and the forward took full advantage of some slack Villa defending to slide the ball past Nyland.
With just a point to show for their efforts since the Premier League’s return to action, though, Dean Smith’s side could ill-afford another defeat, and started committing extra bodies forward in search of a valuable leveller. Substitute Conor Hourihane – who struck the Villans’ first in their 2-0 win over Newcastle in November – had already watched a delightful ball drop wide before providing the assist for Elmohamady’s leveller. The wing back had only been on the pitch just over five minutes when he applied the finishing touch to the Irishman’s corner, with Dúbravka a touch unsighted.
Villa looked the more likely to find a winner late on, but were unable to make the most of five minutes of stoppage time, nor two more corners from the dangerous Hourihane.