Aston Villa 1-1 Newcastle United: Aaron Tshibola nets late on to snatch Roberto Di Matteo’s side a point
Aaron Tshibola rescued a point for Aston Villa as Newcastle blew the chance to close in on Sky Bet Championship leaders Norwich.
The midfielder headed in an 87th minute equaliser for the hosts to secure a 1-1 draw after Tommy Elphick’s first-half own goal looked to have won it for the Magpies.
Dwight Gayle and Mo Diame had chances to finish Villa off and the visitors paid the price late on, having been given let-offs when Mile Jedinak had a goal disallowed and Jordan Ayew hit the post.
The teams were relegated from the Premier League last season and both spent around £50million to try to win an instant return to the top flight.
But the draw left Newcastle four points behind Norwich, who they host on Tuesday, while Villa are only three points above the relegation zone despite a spirited comeback.
The fightback at least eased some of the growing pressure on boss Roberto Di Matteo after his summer spending was designed to arrest a slide which saw Villa win just three times last season.
The Italian was also forced to drop and fine Jack Grealish after a club investigation into his conduct following reports he partied at a Birmingham hotel last Saturday night following last week’s 0-0 draw at Ipswich.
Albert Adomah made his full debut to replace Grealish but had minimal impact.
The Magpies had grown into the game with Villa failing to get a foothold and the visitors blew two fine chances to open the scoring after 25 minutes.
Comical Villa defending allowed Ritchie to nip in only for Pierluigi Gollini to save and then Diame fired the rebound over. But Villa’s backline was breached in calamitous fashion four minutes later when Elphick turned into his own net.
Isaac Hayden found DeAndre Yedlin on the right and the United States international’s low cross was intended for Gayle but, as the striker prepared to pounce, Elphick deflected it across and past Gollini from four yards.
Newcastle went for the kill and Paul Dummett’s shot deflected wide before Nathan Baker was lucky not to concede a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Gayle. The former Crystal Palace striker had caused the hosts problems and he should have doubled Newcastle’s lead nine minutes before the break after more awful defending.
Elphick’s turn landed him in trouble and Gayle pinched the ball to race through only to shoot straight at Gollini with just the keeper to beat.
Di Matteo replaced Baker with Tshibola at half-time as Villa went looking for more substance in midfield having been out thought and out classed in the first half.
The otherwise impressive Diame should have made it 2-0 after 63 minutes but managed to side-foot wide from 12 yards after good work from Shelvey.
Newcastle were almost made to pay for their profligacy when Jedinak looped a 68th-minute header in but the midfielder was offside, but it did at least spark Villa into life and Ayew hit the post four minutes later.
The visitors, after their previous control, began to live dangerously but Villa became increasingly desperate and Elphick headed wide with five minutes left.
But, with Villa’s momentum growing, Tshibola saved them two minutes later when he scored his first goal for the club during a barnstorming finish, nodding in Ayew’s deep corner.