Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 1
- Paul Tierney
Jamaal Lascelles’ last-gasp header salvaged a point for Newcastle as a largely forgettable contest against Aston Villa came to life late on.
The Magpies looked to be playing out a second dour stalemate in the space of a week with ten minutes to play, only for the Villans to open the scoring through Ciaran Clark’s 86th-minute own goal – an unfortunate deflection following an Ollie Watkins header.
Just before that, United had been unfortunate not to get their noses in front themselves, with substitute Jacob Murphy rattling the woodwork. They at least managed to nab a potentially priceless point, however, as Lascelles powered home a fine Murphy cross at the death.
Villa looked assured on the ball early on without necessarily posing a threat. Indeed, it was visiting ‘keeper Emiliano Martínez who was called into action first, getting down low to smother a Ryan Fraser snap-shot from 20 yards. A fine searching ball from Jonjo Shelvey then gave Joelinton something of a run on goal, but with the angle closing Villa managed to snuff out the danger before Martínez had to make a save.
Dean Smith’s side lost Bertrand Traoré to a bizarre injury just before the midpoint of the first half, the wide-man seemingly somewhat needlessly hurdling a pitch-side advertising board before careering into a metal fence. His replacement, Anwar El Ghazi, tested Martin Dúbravka within moments of his introduction, while Trézéguet brought a flying stop out of the Magpies’ ‘keeper after a purposeful run. That was about as good as it got during a first half that became increasingly fragmented as time wore on.
The second brought about little improvement in that regard. A set-piece led to a half-chance for Villa in the 53rd minute, with defender Ezri Konsa directing a header wide of the far post. At the other end, the Villans’ hearts were in their mouths for a split-second as Matt Targett’s header threatened to drop in, but Martínez managed to gather.
United started to enjoy more of the ball in the visitors’ half but lacked composure in the final third. Joelinton got himself into a good position with 15 minutes to play, but – as he did in a similar scenario at the Hawthorns a week ago – opted to pass rather than shoot and Villa managed to clear their lines.
It was Murphy’s introduction with 12 minutes to play that finally gave the Magpies a little bit of impetus. He was desperately unlucky to see the ball ricochet off the crossbar just four minutes after coming on, having picked up a Paul Dummett pass from the left and sent two defenders the wrong way. Then came what looked to be the sucker punch, as Watkins’ downward header took a nick off Clark and flew beyond a helpless Dúbravka, who had shifted his weight the other way.
To their credit, though, Newcastle persevered. Livewire Murphy nearly put the ball on a plate for Dwight Gayle two minutes into stoppage time, doing brilliantly to make it to the byline, only for Villa to scramble the ball away. But, with the last attack of the game, another Murphy delivery was met by Lascelles, whose bullet header left Martínez helpless and brought about huge sighs of relief from those on the pitch in black and white.