With more than five months of the 2015-16 Premier League season still to play, Aston Villa are in big, big trouble. Their total of six points won (from 16 games) heading into Saturday’s relegation six-pointer with Newcastle United meant they began the day a whopping 10 points from safety.
On the other hand, only Newcastle’s recent form (two straight wins in the league) made Steve McClaren‘s side, perennial strugglers themselves, anything more than token favorites. In the end, Saturday’s proceedings at St. James’ Park ended in a 1-1 draw.
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Relegation-threatened clubs typically face such a fate because they put forth poor footballing sides week in and week out. Along with failing to produce results, they also pretty typically fail to entertain their own supporters. On paper, Newcastle versus Villa should have been a double dose of terrible. In reality, it was two desperate sides fighting and scrapping for their PL lives, which is throughly entertaining.
After an opening half-hour that saw just two shots in total, the game sprang to life. Newcastle opened the scoring on 38 minutes (below video), when captain Fabricio Coloccini shanked home a right-footed shot to complete a clever set-piece routine. Siem De Jong whipped in the corner kick to the far post, where the Argentine defender was waiting. His effort on goal was scuffed and deflected into the back of the net by Brad Guzan.
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The two sides headed to the halftime break with the score 1-0 in favor of the home side, but Villa very nearly equalized barely 30 seconds into the second half, whe Jordan Veretout unleashed a left-footed screamer from outside the penalty area. The ball swerved through traffic, nearly wrong-footing Rob Elliott, but the deputy ‘keeper made the diving save at the last moment.
Newcastle’s best chance to double their lead came and went in the 57th minute. De Jong was left shaking his head, wondering how he’d managed to miss a header from three yards out with no one marking him or defending the back post. The shocking miss of the weekend.
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The inevitable equalizer from Villa came four minutes later (above video). Jordan Ayew created a yard of space wide left in the Newcastle penalty area, put the ball onto his powerful right foot and rifled the ball past Elliott and just inside the far post, signaling the first sign of life in Remi Garde’s (and Tim Sherwood‘s) side in many months.
With a handful of late chances failed to be taken by either side, a point apiece is just about is just about right, but will please one side, Newcastle, much more than the other, Villa, given the current league table.
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With the result, Newcastle remain in 17th on 17 points, while Villa stay bottom, five points off Sunderland in 19th and 10 points off Newcastle one place outside the relegation zone. Villa are winless since the opening day of the season and have won just four points from their last 16 league games.