A second-half Jordan Ayew stunner helped rock-bottom Aston Villa earn a much-needed 1-1 draw against Newcastle United at a sodden St James’ Park on Saturday.
The Ghana striker showed great feet in the area before unleashing an unstoppable effort past Rob Elliot to cancel out Fabricio Coloccini’s first-half opener.
It was a moment of genius that sparked Villa into life having created little of note for the first hour.
Newcastle, who were looking for a third straight win after notable victories over Liverpool and Tottenham, took the lead when Coloccini turned in Siem de Jong’s corner.
Torrential Tyneside rain made life difficult for both teams with standing water causing the ball to hold up, and De Jong missed a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 shortly before Ayew’s effort.
A draw means Newcastle are one place and three points above the Premier League relegation zone, while Villa remain 10 points from safety and without a win since Remi Garde took charge last month.
In a tepid opening that produced few chances, Newcastle, unchanged from last weekend’s dramatic last-gasp win at Tottenham, saw Georginio Wijnaldum shoot into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Newcastle began to up the ante, though, and Papiss Cisse leapt well to meet Daryl Janmaat’s cross from the right, but his header was straight at Brad Guzan.
Cisse pulled up hurt when chasing the ball shortly after and his replacement Aleksandar Mitrovic – scorer against Tottenham last week – just failed to make contact with Moussa Sissoko’s fizzed cross.
The pressure told in the 38th minute. Guzan tipped Mitrovic’s looping header over the crossbar and, from the resulting corner, Coloccini easily broke free from a static Villa defence to bundle into the bottom right-hand corner, his first goal since November 2014.
Having mustered nothing of note in the first half, Villa, who brought in Ashley Westwood for Rudy Gestede, finally tested Elliot through Jordan Veretout’s sweetly struck 25-yard effort after the break.
Villa were handed a huge let-off in the 56th minute. Wijnaldum held up a perfect cross from the left flank, but, with the goal gaping, De Jong nodded wide inside the penalty area.
And five minutes later that proved costly for Newcastle.
Veretout’s cross-field pass was collected by Ayew in the penalty area and he dropped his shoulder to escape the attention of Janmaat before rifling his shot into the far corner.
Villa appeared energised by the goal and started to push for a crucial winner. Garde’s men were let off the hook again, though, when Wijnaldum failed to make clean contact with Ayoze Perez’s centre from close range.
In a frantic finish, Villa substitute Gestede saw a powerful header tipped over by Elliot, while Perez – whose injury-time goal sank Spurs last week – blazed over from close range in stoppage time.
Key Opta stats:
– Fabricio Coloccini scored his first goal at St. James’ Park since January 2011 against Spurs.
– Newcastle have dropped 12 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season; more than any other side.
– Aston Villa’s Jordan Ayew has scored four goals in his last eight Premier League appearances after scoring none in his first five league games for the club.
– Aston Villa will be bottom of the Premier League at Xmas – just three of the previous 23 teams to be bottom of the competition on Xmas Day have stayed up. However, the team that were bottom of the Premier League on Xmas Day in each of the last two seasons have managed to avoid relegation that campaign (Leicester 2014-15 and Sunderland in 2013-14).
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