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ASTON VILLA struck late on at St James’ Park to deny a fatigued Newcastle United a second win in a week, but a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough for them to climb out of the Premier League relegation zone.
The match was decided after Steve Bruce and Dean Smith rang the changes in the second half. Dwight Gayle scored minutes after coming on for Magpies, before Ahmed Elmohamady, whom the Newcastle boss has signed three times during his career, headed home an equaliser.
Bruce joked that he shouldn’t have brought him to Sunderland, before reuniting with him at Hull City and Villa, after he denied him three points against his former club, but remained philosophical about the result.
“I wish I’d left him in Egypt,” he laughed.
“I think a lot of him. He did well for me at Sunderland, very well at Hull and a decent job at Aston Villa. But how often does it happen?
“We’re disappointed with the nature of it. It is the first goal we’ve conceded in five games. But if someone told me in these awful times that we’d get four points from our first two games back, I’d have accepted that.”
The visitors started much better, needing the points to aid their battle against the drop. Ezri Konsa played in an excellent cross from the right for Trezeguet, who should have given Villa the lead, but couldn’t guide his effort on target.
Moments later, Anwar El Ghazi searched for Mbwana Samatta, but the striker’s glancing header drifted harmlessly wide.
Newcastle finally came to life when Joelinton, who was looking to score in successive games for the very first time in England, went close after creating space in the area. Tyrone Mings denied him with an excellent sliding challenge to keep the scores level at half-time.
After the break, Villa pushed on again, but Allan Saint-Maximin was lively at the other end. He turned brilliantly on the half-way line before releasing Javi Manquillo down the right, whose cross evaded everyone. In the next phase of play, Danny Rose found Miguel Almiron, but a poor touch from the Paraguayan allowed his shot to be deflected wide.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, substitutes Andy Carroll and Gayle combined, allowing the latter to open the scoring with a cool finish past Orjan Nyland. The pair had replaced Joelinton and Matt Ritchie moments earlier, with the latter capitalising on some poor defending by Mings.
Villa refused to lie down though, and were looking for an equaliser. They were particularly threatening in the air; Kortney Hause almost scored with a header from close-range.
On 83 minutes, they were level. Elmohamady stole in at the near post and flicked Conor Hourihane’s corner past Martin Dubravka. It was the first goal Newcastle conceded at home since New Year’s Day, and in truth they were lucky to hold on for a point.
Dean Smith admitted he was leaving the North East frustrated at the result despite trailing towards the end.
“It feels like two points dropped,” he said.
“We were the much better team in the first half and if we take one of our chances, it is very difficult for Newcastle to come back.”
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