Collins gives Villa some breathing space
Aston Villa 1 Newcastle United 0
Monday 11 April 2011
Aston Villa may have picked the wrong day to launch a "Bring a scarf" initiative aimed at making Villa Park a claret and blue citadel, but on a sun-baked afternoon they edged away from the relegation zone, thanks to a first-half header by defender James Collins.
Booed from the pitch following their previous home match, a derby defeat by Wolves which led to calls for the head of manager Gerard Houllier, Villa were cheered off after opening up a five-point gap over 18th-placed West Ham. Next Saturday, intriguingly, they face Avram Grant's side in east London.
Newcastle, who are two points ahead of Villa, were entitled to feel aggrieved by the decision by referee Stuart Attwell, which led to the goal midway through the first half. Joey Barton was harshly adjudged to have brought down Ashley Young, the Premier League's most fouled player, and let the England attacker know he felt he went to ground too easily.
Young, undaunted, whipped in a fast, curling free-kick from the left which saw Collins rise in a congested goalmouth to glance the ball beyond goalkeeper Steve Harper. "If you make the right runs, his delivery is second to none," said Collins, who before the Wolves debacle had been involved in a spat at a health spa with a member of Houllier's backroom staff.
It was not Barton's day. Having put pressure on himself with his boasts about being the best midfielder in England and disparaging asides about Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, Newcastle's acting captain fluffed an early chance by heading Jose Enrique's cross into the Holte End. After several irritable exchanges with Mr Attwell, Barton was finally booked for fouling Nigel Reo-Coker in the closing minutes.
Houllier and his Newcastle counterpart, Alan Pardew, unsurprisingly viewed Barton's challenge on Young differently. "It was a free-kick – even the fourth official said it was," insisted the Frenchman, who likened his player's twisting style to an eel. Pardew said Barton had "hardly touched" Young, adding: "We kept saying before the match that if you touch him, he goes over." Villa, however, could point to another decision that had a bearing on their staccato performance. Just before half-time, Jean Makoun threaded an exquisite through-ball to Darren Bent. The £24m striker appeared to be level with the last defender when he slotted home, only for an offside flag to dash his hopes of the 2-0 lead that might have allowed Villa to relax.
Subs: Aston Villa Reo-Coker 6 (Makoun, 67), Cuellar (Walker, 77), Pires (Agbonlahor, 86) Unused Marshall (gk), Clark, Albrighton, Heskey.
Newcastle R Taylor 5 (S Taylor, 63), Kuqi (Ranger, 83). Unused Krul (gk), Tavernier, Ferguson, Donaldson, Richardson. Booked: Villa Petrov, Cuellar. Newcastle Williamson, Barton. Man of the match Enrique Match rating 6/10.
Possession Aston Villa 51% Newcastle 49%.
Attempts on target Aston Villa 7 Newcastle 4.
Referee S Attwell (Warwicks) Att 37,090.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli: Time running out for ‘lost boy’ to shine
Liverpool fans applaud Cristiano Ronaldo after master-class for Real Madrid, despite his Manchester United ties
In other places I would have been sacked straight after 8-0 Southampton defeat, says Sunderland manager Gus Poyet
Angel Di Maria injury latest: Argentina international set to play in Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Liverpool vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema run Reds ragged at Anfield
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo shot dead at war memorial
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'