Premier League – Martins brace lifts Newcastle
Obafemi Martins scored the goals as Newcastle lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 home victory over high-flying Aston Villa.
Martins scored two second-half goals as Newcastle became the third side in as many days to win from the bottom of the Premier League table, following the achievements of Tottenham and Bolton.
Aston Villa had much the better of the first half but could not get going after the break as they missed the opportunity to break into the top three.
Villa certainly had the two best chances of a first half that started brightly but became scrappy and full of stoppages as it went on.
By the time Newcastle’s best moment came when centre-back Steven Taylor was just inches away from turning home an inviting cross from the right from Habib Beye four minutes before the break, Villa had already hit the post and spurned two fine chances.
First, Villa defender Martin Laursen flicked the outside of the post with a towering header from a corner to come within inches of his fifth goal of the campaign, before an unmarked Gabby Agbonlahor completely mis-cued eight yards out after James Milner rolled the ball across to him.
Ashley Young then brought a 35th-minute save out of Shay Given – making his 450th appearances for the club – when he beat his man and earned some space 10 yards out with a body swerve before driving straight at the face of the Toon keeper.
Villa – out after the break a good couple of minutes earlier than the home side – began the second half like a side desperate to break the deadlock, but it was Newcastle who brought the match to life.
Joey Barton, lucky to escape a first-half booking when he petulantly flicked out a hand into the face of Agbonlahor in an off-the-ball incident, was shown a yellow card for a studs-up challenge in midfield as the game threatened to boil over.
And just before the hour, the home side had the lead when Martins held up Barton’s pass on the edge of the box and, afforded some space to turn by Laursen, moved the ball onto his left foot before firing a low shot inside the near post from 20 yards, just out of the reach of diving Villa keeper Brad Freidel.
The goal gave the home side and their fans the confidence and belief to push for a game-clinching second, which almost came just seven minutes later when Nicky Butt‘s 25-yard free-kick beat Freidel but crashed against the post.
Villa boss Martin O’Neill used the break in play to replace Nicky Shorey with midfielder Steve Sidwell, moving Nigel Reo-Coker to makeshift right-back – but the move backfired with eight minutes remaining.
Jonas Gutiérrez surged into the box from the left wing, easily rounding Reo-Coker in the process, before firing the ball across the face of goal for Martins to thump it into the net from a yard out and secure a hugely-important victory for his side.