Villa spoil Owen's return
Tame draw on Big Sam's debut
Last Updated: 19/08/07 3:07pm
Viduka tangles with Reo-Coker
Sam Allardyce's first competitive match as Newcastle manager at St James' Park ended in a tame goalless draw with Aston Villa.
The return of Michael Owen after a 12-month injury absence could not spark the home side as Villa enjoyed the better of the possession and the few goalscoring opportunities.
Martin O'Neill's side, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Liverpool on the season's opening day, were rarely troubled in defence and forced home keeper Steve Harper into action on more than one occasion.
Defender David Rozehnal had Newcastle's best chance, but his stinging left-foot volley was brilliantly saved by Scott Carson, who was making his debut for Villa.
Allardyce would have hoped for more from his home debut after the promise of the opening day win at Bolton, and it might have been different if his side had capitalised on a quick start.
Straight from the kick-off, the Magpies surged forward and Villa defender Martin Laursen was forced to boot the ball out for a corner under pressure from Alan Smith after just 16 seconds.
But it soon became apparent that Villa were in the mood to spoil Allardyce's big day.
The visitors, boosted by the considerable physical presence of John Carew and Ashley Young's lightning pace down the left, had the better first-half chances.
Carew saw a dangerous cross cleared by N'Zogbia, Gabriel Agbonlahor wriggled past Steven Taylor in the box and forced Steve Harper to boot clear, then Craig Gardner headed over the bar.
Although Newcastle's new captain Geremi forced Carson to punch clear, most of the action was coming at the other end with Carew firing a fine 25-yard effort which Harper tipped over the bar.
And in the 11th minute, Villa came even closer when Laursen connected with Agbonlahor's corner but his header struck the fortunate Harper on the line and was cleared.
Carew needed extensive treatment on the sidelines, apparently with some sort of chest complaint, which would cause him to be substituted midway through the second half.
Slowly the home side got going, with James Milner at the heart of most of their moves, and his cross for Smith on the half-hour resulted in a shot which was blocked by Gardner.
Straight up the other end, Agbonlahor won a race with N'Zogbia then wriggled past Butt to set up a shooting chance, but having done the hard work he shot wide of target.
But the Magpies should have gone in ahead at the break after Rozehnal found space in the Villa box in the 36th minute and lashed a left-foot volley which was brilliantly saved by Scott Carson.
Both sides showed plenty of commitment in the opening stages of the second half to little reward, with the best chance a hopelessly miscued effort from Carew.
Certainly Villa were crossing the half-way line with more purpose, with Carew continuing to pose a physical threat and Agbonlahor stretching N'Zogbia down the right flank.
Reo-Coker fashioned a super chance for Villa on the hour, skipping through the challenge of N'Zogbia before curling a low effort which Harper did well to tip around his right post.
At the other end, the outstanding Laursen had to be on his guard to head away a dangerous deep cross by Milner as the action continued to swing from end to end with little end result.
Despite having had his pre-season ravaged by a thigh injury, Owen was finally introduced by Allardyce in place of Martins in the 63rd minute, to the predictable rousing ovation.
But Owen's arrival could not make the difference as the England man struggled to make an impression against a Villa rearguard who had been outstanding throughout the afternoon.
Villa finished the match stronger, with Gareth Barry's fine cross-field ball setting up an 86th minute chance for Stilian Petrov, who struck his shot straight at Harper.
|Newcastle United||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|1||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||8|
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