Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 0 match report: Loic Remy makes striking impression to take the heat off Alan Pardew
Pardew's team end a run of three successive Premier League defeats
Alan Pardew instinctively thrust his right arm into the air. He was immediately engulfed by his back room staff. He did not run and he did not jump into the arms of supporters, as he had done last season, when in the closing stages of a campaign haunted by relegation, a late goal against Fulham brought delirium and relief tumbling down from the St James’ Park stands.
This time, after another dramatic, late, winning goal, when there were less than 90 seconds of injury-time remaining on Martin Atkinson’s stopwatch, Pardew pushed his two chief lieutenants, John Carver and Andy Woodman, to one side, and pointed defiantly towards the Milburn Stand, where he drew a smile across his face. That, he would reveal later, was in reaction to stories that he had to win this game to save his job, something that had been vehemently denied by the club. He was not finished. Then came more looks to the area to the side of his dugout, from where one vociferous fan had demanded to know, when the game was locked in a grim, goalless stalemate, what had been happening at the training ground for the previous four days. In the joy of that moment, however, anger was dissipating rapidly. There came a volley of applause from that small area of the ground, Pardew responded by applauding them back. It was not his goal, but after seven hours and 40 minutes without one, the relief and the lessening of the heat he had been feeling in 2014 was all too obvious.
As he pointed and proved points, Loic Remy, the goalscorer and mood changer of a football club and a city, took off his shirt and stood triumphantly on top of the electronic advertising hoarding in the corner of the Gallowgate End. He was mobbed by his team-mates. St James’ Park, which had only came to life in the 80th minute, when the excellent Mike Williamson produced a fine, saving challenge on Christian Benteke, exploded. The emotional spectrum swings with alarming speed from despair to delight. There had been more suggestions of protest beforehand. It was a flat atmosphere and Aston Villa, for whom Ashley Westwood was outstanding, had missed fine chances through Karim el Ahmadi and Gabriel Agbonlahor in a one-sided first half. The second half was marginally better, and then, after that tackle, as a slightly perplexed Pardew correctly called, the ground and the team came to life.
“This stadium is like a breathing, living animal,” said Pardew. “We needed it to come alive to help us.”
It did, and then, with just two minutes remaining, after good work from Luuk de Jong, the game opened up for Remy. To the horror of his manager – and the colour in his face drained when he span to face the crowd this time – the French forward struck a post. It seemed improbable that another chance would come, but once more it did, again after work by De Jong. This time, with the game at 91 minutes and 30 seconds, Remy showed breathtaking composure inside the Aston Villa penalty area, wrong-footing Ron Vlaar before cooly stroking his left-foot shot past Brad Guzan.
“His all-round game was terrific,” added Pardew. “The game seemed a little bit slower when he was on the ball, not as frantic. The quality players can slow the game down, like Cruyff. He can do that. He is going to be hot property.”
Remy very deliberately climbed the same advertising hoarding he had stood on in triumph following his goal at the game’s finish and gave his shirt to a young fan. He then pointed towards John Carver as he left the field and later revealed he had dedicated his goal to the Newcastle assistant manager following the recent death of his father, Fred.
For Remy, it was the end of an emotional period in his own life. Rape charges against him were dropped earlier in the month. This was his first game since then, and also since serving a three-game suspension after being sent off at Norwich.
“Until the game is finished I trust I can score and that is what happened,” he said. “I never felt my chance had gone. The last few games have been very difficult. We are now very relieved.”
No one more so than his manager.
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