Okay, okay, top of the league because no one else has played two matches… but Aston Villa lead the Premier League after surviving a scoreless home opener against Newcastle United.
The visitors showed plenty of danger, and missed several fairly simple chances to score. American goalkeeper Brad Guzan made plenty of solid saves for the Villans in what was often a sleepy affair as the hosts shut up shop until a late Newcastle red card.
[MORE: Full match replay]
Jack Colback and Remy Cabella were the stars for Newcastle, which couldn’t find the recipe for a goal from its strikers.
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The Magpies tried a bit of a short corner move in the 5th minute, but Brad Guzan snared Vurnon Anita’s deflected shot.
The 16th minute found Aston Villa with a dangerous free kick following a tactical challenge from a beaten Colback, and former Newcastle player Charles N’Zogbia bent his left-footed shot just wide of diving Tim Krul… and the net.
Both Newcastle and Aston Villa fans cheered for the duration of the 18th minute in honor of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, Newcastle supporters who died on the Malaysian Airlines disaster in Ukraine.
Newcastle earned a free kick from about 25 yards out, stood over by Geordie boy Colback. He blasted the attempt wildly over the bar. Later, Cabella slid a through ball a hair too long for Emmanuel Riviere. That extra quarter stride cost Riviere some power, and Guzan went to ground to make the save.
Cabella was felled by a backhand of N’Zogbia in the 42nd minute after a giveaway, but nothing came of the foul.
The Magpies did well out of the break, as Daryl Janmaat nearly headed a past Guzan, earning the club a corner. Janmaat lashed a left-footed 18-yarder just wide of the bar in the 56th minute as well.
Newcastle continued to control the chances, with Mike Williamson laughably missing a solid chance. But corner after corner began to come for the Magpies, who still failed to finish.
Paul Lambert looked to flip the script in Aston Villa’s favor with the introduction of new signing Carlos Sanchez in the 63rd minute. And Sanchez’s first ball was a gorgeous feed that was played out for a corner kick.
Alan Pardew tried a similar trick by inserting big-money transfer Siem de Jong in the 70th minute.
De Jong nearly found a goal in the 88th minute as Newcastle continued to control play. Cabella put a neat pass through the de Jong, but Guzan made a strong reactive save.
There was an amusing span in the 90th minute as Villa fans would not return the match ball for a corner kick, and then tossed the ball in Colback’s path as he prepared to take the corner with a new ball.
Mike Williamson took a second yellow as four minutes of stoppage time began for hip-checking a rushing Fabian Delph.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Senderos, Vlaar, Cissokho (Baker, 85′) Westwood, Delph, Richardson (Bent, 76′), Weimann, N’Zogbia (Sanchez 63′), Agbonlahor
Newcastle United: Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita (de Jong 70′), Colback; Gouffran, Sissoko, Cabella; Riviere (Perez, 77′; S. Taylor, 90+2′)