Newcastle do their level Best to leave Pardew happy

Aston Villa 1 Newcastle United 1
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The Independent Online

Two left-foot shots in off the goalkeeper by two leading goalscorers made for two largely contented managers. Two points dropped it might have been for Aston Villa and Newcastle United but both found considerable consolation from unbeaten records stretching towards a monthand a half.

Notwithstanding the fact that Villa led through Gabriel Agbonlahor early on and created possibly the better openings, such was the volume of attacking and half-chances at the other end that Newcastle could not be begrudged a second draw of the week on their travels.

Reward for them on the ground at which they were relegated two-and-a-half years ago came with Leon Best's equaliser shortly before the hour. Then Yohan Cabaye, having earlier hit the bar from 20 yards, was denied a winner by Shay Given's diving save six minutes from time.

"I was really buoyed by our performance," said the Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. "You don't expect to control a game here like we did. If I had travelled down with the Toon Army, I would have been very pleased with what I'd seen. We looked a threat all game and Cabaye was beautiful today."

These sides were hardly weighed down by pre-season expectation and the fact they are statistically enjoying their best starts for many years was not wholly appreciated by Villa's fans, some of whom greeted the final whistle with a chorus of boos.

Their side failed to establish a platform from which they could dominate even after going ahead in the 13th minute with one of the season's less complicated goals.

The recalled Barry Bannon chipped a diagonal cross from midfield and Agbonlahor, making his 200th Villa start and pushed up front in the injury absence of Emile Heskey, showed substantially better balance than the floundering Fabricio Coloccini to drive in under the legs of Tim Krul.

An audacious 30-yard first-time effort from Bannan on the right dipped just off target and a link-up on the opposite wing should have brought the cushion of a second goal. Stiliyan Petrov escaped into space in the area and squared unselfishly for Darren Bent to divert clumsily wide.

Cabaye had wasted a clear early chance from 20 yards and, in the push for a response to the breakthrough, Stephen Taylor brought a punched save from Given diving to his left.

Given was lining up for the first time against the club for whom he played 463 matches and Villa also had two other former Newcastle men in the fray, Chrales N'Zogbia and substitute Stephen Ireland, with Jermaine Jenas still unfit.

Throw in Bent's Sunderland connections and there were ample points of interest, although the three-goal Agbonlahor played the lead role and threatened with a sharp turn and shot that flashed narrowly wide at the start of the second half.

Stephen Taylor made good his own mistake by clearing Bent's lob from near the line but, by then, Newcastle had pulled level amid some uncharacteristically sloppy Villa defending. Best was left unmarked beyond the far post to meet Cheik Tioté's left-wing centre and, although Best's downward header was blocked by Given, the ball fell invitingly for the striker to shoot into the roof of the net for his third goal.

As for Villa, progress remains steady and somewhat low-key. "The way we started was blistering, fantastic," said their manager Alex McLeish, who has still not overseen a Premier League win against Newcastle in five attempts.

"We opened them up and looked really dangerous. It was frustrating we didn't win."

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Given; Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Bannon (Albrighton 66), Petrov (Ireland 66), Delph, N'Zogbia; Bent (Delfouneso 83), Agbonlahor.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Colocconi,R Taylor; Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez (Sammy Ameobi 90); Best (Shola Ameobi 67), Ba (Marveaux 78). Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Man of the match: Cabaye.

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