Jordan Ayew’s stunning goal earned a point for rock-bottom Aston Villa against Newcastle in a thrilling 1-1 draw at St James’ Park on Saturday evening.
After a dogged start, Newcastle eventually forced the opening goal seven minutes before half-time when captain Fabricio Coloccini’s scruffy half-volley crept into the back of the net.
Steve McClaren’s side were then made to rue a handful of clear-cut opportunities when Jordan Ayew’s stunning 61st-minute strike set up a fierce, intense finale in treacherous conditions.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez were both guilty of lacking composure in front of goal for the hosts, who had goalkeeper Rob Elliot to thank for keeping the dangerous Rudy Gestede at bay.
Newcastle, a team with renewed confidence following victories against Liverpool and Tottenham, were given the task of asserting their authority against an Aston Villa side who were clearly set up to pose a threat on the counter.
The Magpies were performing well below recent expectations but, as the first half wore on, they began to ask more probing questions of the opposition defence.
Papiss Cisse pulled up with an off-the-ball injury just minutes after forcing Brad Guzan into action for the first time in the 29th minute, and his replacement Aleksandar Mitrovic made an immediate impact for the right and wrong reasons.
From close range, he completely fluffed his lines when trying to connect with a low cross from the right side. However, he was eager to make amends and his looping header, subsequently tipped over by Guzan, eventually resulted in the deadlock being broken.
A low, bouncing cross from the follow-up corner trickled all the way to the far post, where captain Coloccini was on hand to poke in a tame half-volley beyond Guzan with 38 minutes on the clock.
Although the torrential rain did not help proceedings, Villa’s only joy came down the right wing but Alan Hutton’s crosses were easy for the Newcastle defence to deal with. Leandro Bacuna’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time, which was hit straight at Rob Elliot, was the visitors’ best chance of the first 45 minutes.
The pouring rain continued to wreak havoc on Tyneside in the second half, yet Remi Garde’s men made a bright start with Jordan Veretout stinging Elliot’s palms from distance.
With almost an hour played, Siem de Jong spurned a glorious chance to double Newcastle’s lead. The Villans were slow to react to Georginio Wijnaldum collecting Daryl Janmaat’s cross, and Newcastle’s top goalscorer had plenty of time to pick out the unmarked De Jong, who somehow missed from three yards out.
The introduction of Rudy Gestede gave Aston Villa more attacking menace and they punished their wasteful opponents in the 61st minute.
Ayew provided the rare moment of inspiration for the struggling Midlands club as he found the right corner of Elliot’s goal with a wonderful curling effort from the left edge of the penalty area.
Both sides continued to carve out chances until the final whistle in a frantic finish at St James’ Park, with the dominant Gestede and Newcastle substitute Ayoze Perez almost finding the winner for each respective side in the dying moments.