Newcastle snatched an invaluable point in their fight against relegation from the Premier League thanks to Jamaal Lascelles’ header with the last action of the game, helping the Magpies draw Aston Villa 1-1 at St. James’ Park on Friday.
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The point takes Newcastle two points clear of Brighton & Hove Albion and Fulham in 17th and 18th, respectively, with 10 games left to play. It also makes three straight draws following an incredible poor run of results between mid-December and mid-February.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, would have taken back 8th place, ahead of defending champions Liverpool, had they held on a few seconds longer. With 11 games left to play, a top-half finish is now completely up in the air for Dean Smith’s side.
3 things we learned: Newcastle – Aston Villa
1. Dull affair between two ragged sides: Most Premier League sides have very little left in the gas tank at this point of the 2020-21 season – despite every team having between nine and 11 games left to play — but few of them have looked as weary and lifeless as Newcastle and Aston Villa did on Friday.
2. Grealish makes Aston Villa go: Sure, that part isn’t exactly new or “learned” on Friday, but the degree to which Jack Grealish is (quite clearly) Aston Villa’s best player and raises the entire team’s level a considerable amount… that part has been, perhaps, even more extreme than expected. In the five games Grealish has missed in recent weeks, Aston Villa have scored all of two goals themselves (plus Friday’s own goal) in 450 minutes of action.
3. Maybe spirit can save Newcastle: Admittedly, you’re grasping for straws when you say something like “Who knows, maybe Newcastle have a self-belief that will, somehow, carry them over the line,” but it’s more than we’ve seen from Brighton or Burnley — a pair of fellow relegation candidates — over the last month. It’s not been great fun to watch — actually, it’s been atrocious — but they’re finding a way to pick up points, and doing it without Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson or Miguel Almiron.
Newcastle were the aggressors for the majority of the first half and the Magpies were nearly awarded a penalty kick in the 2nd minute as Tyrone Mings fell and appeared to trip Joelinton inside the penalty area.
Joelinton and Ryan Fraser linked up for a speculative effort from well outside the penalty area in the 5th minute, but Emiliano Martinez found the save easy in the end.
Anwar El Ghazi forced Martin Dubravka to make a save in the 28th minute, but it was rather straightforward with the ball hit at the goalkeeper’s face.
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El Ghazi had an even better scoring chance early in the second half after Trezeguet teed him up for a shot, only for Ciaran Clark to come streaking in the frame and make a vital block at the last possible moment.
Jacob Murphy had a high-percentage scoring chance in the 82nd minute, and it needed to be a goal for Newcastle given the quality of opportunity. Murphy cut inside from the left and opened up an obstructed sight of goal from eight yards out. His shot, however, was a bit hard and a bit high, as it struck the crossbar and bounded high into the air.
Four minutes later, Ollie Watkins got on the end of a fantastic cross from left back Matt Targett. The ball took a massive deflection off Clark and struck the underside of the crossbar before crossing the goal line.
The winner came with 94 minute on the clock, and it could not have been a more fitting goal for the game and the season — captain Lascelles rose up to powerfully redirect Murphy’s cross just out of Martinez’s reach for a truly dramatic finish.