Newcastle 2-1 Aston Villa: Ba, Keane score, Cisse superb-strike
Papiss Demba Cisse had a dream debut as his goal gave Newcastle United a 2-1 win at home to Aston Villa, putting his side fifth in the Premier League.
Cisse, signed from Freiburg in January but unavailable until now because of the African Cup of Nations, rifled in an expert half-volley with 18 minutes left to add to Senegal team-mate Demba Ba’s opener, which had been cancelled out by Robbie Keane's 150th goal in English football.
The result sees Toon move above Arsenal into fifth, behind Chellsea only on goal difference: Alan Pardew's men will hope that Manchester United get a positive result at Stamford Bridge as the Magpies chase an unlikely Champions League place.
An entertaining game was marred by apparently serious injuries to Newcastle pair Leon Best and Ryan Taylor.
Both incidents yielded positive notes for Toon though as Best’s 13-minute withdrawal saw new signing Cisse make his hotly-anticipated debut, while Taylor’s brave intervention resulted in the opening goal.
That strike - Ba’s 16th in the Premier League this season - came about when Davide Santon’s cross was only half-cleared by the erratic Richard Dunne: the loose ball fell invitingly for Taylor, who flew into a blood-and-thunder 50-50 with Stephen Warnock, flicking it inside for Ba to rifle in the finish from close range.
It came at a cost as Taylor was hauled off on a stretcher, his right knee heavily strapped having been caught by Warnock, but Newcastle later said it was likely to be heavy bruising.
Until that point Villa had been the better side as Darren Bent’s clever runs off the last man caused problems, but Tim Krul was twice on hand to save well from the England striker.
But if the Magpies scored somewhat against the run of play, so did Villa: after their goal Toon had chances through Cisse and Ba, the former denied by Alan Hutton’s block while the latter flicked a clever finish just over.
So it was karma that, five minutes into injury time, Keane was rewarded for his fine touches and movement with a close-range volleyed finish after former Magpie Charles N’Zogbia silenced the boo-boys with a fine run and cross from the left. It was the Irishman's 150th goal in England and his third in four league matches since joining Villa on loan from LA Galaxy.
The second half started scrappily, though. Villa were forced to withdraw their main ball-playing midfielder Stephen Ireland, but that suited the naturally more direct hosts, who - led by the all-action Danny Guthrie - went close through Cisse and Obertan, who headed over and had a shot blocked respectively.
Cisse really should have buried that free header from Santon’s excellent cross, but he made up for it in style with a debut goal on 72 minutes.
Jonas Gutierrez’s centre was missed by Dunne, who yet again kicked air rather embarrassingly: he could not have accounted for what followed though, as Cisse controlled expertly before rifling a left-foot half-volley into the top corner from the edge of the box.
It was the dream debut the home fans had been urging since they cheered his entrance, and the goal boosted his confidence further: he was denied a second half-volleyed goal by Carlos Cuellar’s block.
Villa rallied late on as Krul was forced to bat away Ciaran Clark’s long-range strike, while Clark’s replacement Gary Gardner should have done better than fire well wide when Stiliyan Petrov put him in.
Gardner, recalled from his loan at Coventry City, was having a real impact with his runs from deep, denied a goal when his close-range header from Barry Bannan’s cross was somehow kept out by Krul despite a deflection off Mike Williamson.
But Ton stayed calm, defending in numbers and running the ball into the corners as they held on for yet another win at home to boost their run for European football next season.