Grim times as Villa fall further

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 00:00

Aston Villa 1 Newcastle United 2:These are grim times for Aston Villa that must leave their supporters wondering whether their season could get any worse. Unfortunately for them, the answer is plainly yes.

In the space of a week they have now lost to Bradford City of League Two, Millwall of the Championship and now a Newcastle United side that had not won an away fixture all season in any competition. This result leaves them deep in the relegation quagmire and sinking fast.

Paul Lambert’s side can take an ounce of consolation from their spirited efforts once Christian Benteke had scored with a debatable penalty early in the second half.

They subjected Newcastle to some concerted pressure but had left themselves with too much to do after first-half goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye.

Villa were generous opponents for a side and Alan Pardew’s team took advantage to lift themselves above Southampton to 15th position.

Villa will drop to 19th if Reading manage a point or more at home to Chelsea tonight.

Cleared a corner

Villa’s humiliation against Bradford had been so complete that, not long before Cisse set about exposing their vulnerability in defence, the Holte End could be heard rejoicing that the most porous defence in the top division had successfully managed to clear a corner.

Newcastle, lest it be forgotten, had brought their own sense of crisis to Villa Park, with only two wins from their previous 18 games.

The difference was they had been prominently involved in the transfer window.

Pardew put two of his signings, Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, straight into his starting lineup and the beauty of having new players is that it can give the entire team a lift.

They will have relished the part the French contingent played as well, starting with that moment after 19 minutes when Sissoko expertly played in Cisse with a pass that dissected the entire Villa defence. Brad Guzan was quick to leave his line to narrow the angle but Cisse slid his shot beneath the Villa goalkeeper.

Newcastle increased their lead without looking particularly brilliant themselves. After 31 minutes, Jonas Gutierrez crossed from the right and Ron Vlaar’s header fell invitingly for Cabaye.

The midfielder’s volley from 25 yards that dipped just at the right moment to find the top corner.

Minimal contact

Then Mathieu Debuchy and Agbonlahor both set off after the same ball and the referee, Mike Dean, decided the challenge merited a penalty. It looked soft in the extreme, on the edge of the penalty area, with minimal contact and the Villa substitute running away goal. Benteke rolled his shot past Krul and suddenly the game had a different complexion.

Toothless in attack, obliging in defence - it’s a combination that could take Villa out of the top division for the first time in a quarter of a century.

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