Villa up and running
Clark header cancelled out by Ben Arfa cracker
Last Updated: 02/09/12 6:43pm
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert secured his first Premier League point since taking charge following a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United.
Ciaran Clark's first-half header had sparked hope that Villa would follow up a midweek cup win over Tranmere Rovers by claiming a first league victory of the campaign.
However, a stunning strike from Hatem Ben Arfa earned the Magpies a deserved point as both sides had late chances to nick a winner.
Tim Krul saved from Darren Bent, but there was nothing the Newcastle keeper could do about Villa's goal on 22 minutes when Clark was left unmarked inside the six-yard box to head home.
Newcastle had a couple of penalty shouts and saw Papiss Cisse's effort deflect wide before Gael Bigirimana was brought on for his Premier League debut after Danny Simpson suffered an injury.
A lively start to the second half saw Ben Arfa head straight at Brad Guzan before the France international drew the hosts level by smashing a 25-yard rocket into the top corner just before the hour mark.
Stephen Ireland volleyed a good chance off target late on before Guzan, who replaced the dropped Shay Given, pulled off a flying save in stoppage-time to turn away Yohan Cabaye's free-kick.
Villa arrived sitting at the foot of the table without a point from their first two games and with former Newcastle stalwart Given relegated to a seat on the bench as a result.
But if the Magpies thought the visitors were there for the taking, the belief proved horribly mistaken during the opening 45 minutes.
Lambert's men were up for the fight from the off and although Karim El Ahmadi in particular was perhaps a little over-zealous at times, they knocked the hosts out of their stride.
It was a strangely disjointed performance from Newcastle, who continue to miss Cheick Tiote's influence in the middle of the park.
The service from wide-men Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez was decidedly sub-standard, and with front two Cisse and Demba Ba misfiring, Given's replacement Guzan was rarely extended with last season's swagger having seemingly deserted Alan Pardew's team.
Sunderland old boy Bent served warning of Villa's intent with 19 minutes gone when he forced Krul into save, with Fabricio Coloccini blocking Andi Weimann's follow-up, and the keeper had to deny Bent again seconds later.
Clark then took full advantage of woeful defending from Newcastle as the defender was left free to nod Barry Bannan's excellent delivery past Krul.
Steven Taylor bundled a Cabaye free-kick over the bar as the Magpies attempted to respond, but the home side were almost level with 29 minutes gone.
Ben Arfa's right-wing corner was overhit, but Ba managed to pluck it out of the air and drill the ball back across goal, where Cisse's shot seemed destined for the back of the net before Guzan somehow managed to keep it out with his foot.
Midfielder Vurnon Anita fired into the side-netting after Gutierrez had recycled the resulting corner to him on the edge of the box, but the Dutchman found himself having to change roles eight minutes later as Newcastle's decision not to sign a defender during the transfer widow returned to haunt them.
Danny Simpson went down clutching his hamstring and with Ryan Taylor and James Perch already injured, Anita had to drop in at full-back.
Ba fired across goal seconds later as the Magpies finished the half strongly, but without troubling Guzan to any great extent.
Villa returned not only determined to hang on to their advantage, but to extend it if at all possible, and as the Magpies continued to labour, they looked the more likely to score.
As the home fans grew increasingly restless, Newcastle responded and Ben Arfa might have done better when he headed Anita's 52-minute cross straight at Guzan.
Pardew had switched to a 4-3-3 formation before the break in an attempt to get Ben Arfa further forward, and the ploy eventually paid off with 59 minutes gone.
The Frenchman picked up possession on the left and cut inside before unleashing a searing drive which flew high past Guzan and into the top corner.
In the meantime, Krul had to pluck Ireland's well-struck shot out of the air and then had to get down well to deny Weimann with Villa still very much in the game.
Ben Arfa had a chance to fire the Magpies ahead with 23 minutes remaining, but curled his free-kick harmlessly over the bar.
Ba went close with a looping header from substitute Bigirimana's 74th-minute cross, but Ireland passed up a glorious opportunity to win it six minutes later when he screwed his shot wide from 16 yards.Bent was handed a similarly promising opening with six minutes left, but Bigirimana's timely intervention kept him at bay before Guzan palmed out Cabaye's last-ditch attempt.
|Newcastle United||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||5|
|10||Shots off Target||4|
|52.8||1st Half Poss.||47.2|
|50.4||2nd Half Poss.||49.6|
Barclays Premier League
|7||West Ham United||22||36|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||22||22|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||22||19|