Aston Villa welcomed Newcastle United in Week 24 of the English Premier League, but once again performed multifariously in front of the home crowd, as the Magpies came out on top with goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye proving to be too much for the Villans.
Newcastle started the match brightly, dominating possession and creating several chances before a neat through ball from Moussa Sissoko found Cisse on the edge of the box. As expected, the Newcastle forward had no problems finishing off the clear-cut chance he was given.
Aston Villa, although outplayed, didn't give up.
Minutes later, the ball came off from Christian Benteke into the path of Charles N'Zogbia, who struck a powerful left-footed volley towards the goal. With the goalkeeper already beaten, the ball rattled the post.
Luck wasn't on their side.
Thirty minutes into the match, Yohan Cabaye scored a 25-yard screamer to put Newcastle 2-0 up.
At halftime, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert made two substitutions, bringing in Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann in place of the anonymous Joseph Bennett and Darren Bent.
Only four minutes after the start of the second half, the Villans were awarded a harsh penalty, which was dully converted by Christian Benteke.
The home side put in a spirited performance, dominating the proceedings later on, but were eventually unable to find the all-important equaliser, as the match ended in a disappointing 2-1 loss.
Here's what we have learned from a typical game of two halves.
After 11 winless away matches, Newcastle finally recorded a win on the road.
The Magpies completely overran their opponents in the first half and deservedly went 2-0 ahead.
However, the second half was one to forget for the Newcastle faithful.
On the other hand, Villa, who were so far void of any ideas, started the second half magnificently, scoring after only four minutes from a spot-kick.
After that, the Villans didn't look back.
The introduction of Andreas Weinmann proved to be a catalyst for the Birmingham outfit, as the midfielder put in a brilliant performance, which, sadly enough, wasn't enough to earn his side a well-deserved point.
The Tyneside club surrendered possession and concentrated on defending, failing to threaten the opposition's goalkeeper.
Needless to say, the Magpies were utterly disappointing in the second half.
All in all, Newcastle have put in some better performances on the road, and this one was not worthy of a win.
With Stiliyan Petrov fighting the battle against leukaemia, Ron Vlaar has taken the captain's armband this season, but once again failed to prove that he is the leader of the team.
The defender went missing in the first half—just like the rest of the team—as Newcastle toyed with their opponents, creating numerous chances which luckily weren't all converted.
In a game largely dominated by the opposition, the captain is supposed to take the responsibility and try to calm things down. Needless to say, Vlaar failed to act like a leader when he was needed, and his team eventually suffered.
Newcastle might not have played their best game of the season, but they finally went out on top, securing their first away league win of the season, and the French contingent played a remarkable part in it.
Moussa Sissoko assisted the first goal for Papiss Cisse, while Yohan Cabaye belted a 25-yard screamer to score the second one.
Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy also put in strong performances, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who started the match on the bench, denied a clear chance for Ciaran Clark to equalise.
The French revolution at Newcastle is already bearing fruits.
Aston Villa haven't signed a single player in the January transfer window.
On the other hand, Newcastle broke the bank and signed a couple of players who, as it turned out, already started repaying themselves—Debuchy, Sissoko and Yanga-Mbiwa all played a huge part in the club's first away league win of the season.
The transfers made in January have already impacted the relegation battle and could prove to be pivotal in the latter stages.
Only time will reveal the effects of Aston Villa's reluctance to enter the market in search of reinforcements, but it certainly won't do them much good.
Without a doubt, Christian Benteke is Aston Villa's best player so far.
The Villans' top goalscorer this season once again showed he is a dominant presence in the air and an astute finisher. While his style of play might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, he gets things done in the simplest way, and that's what ultimately counts—the result.
Benteke's fantastic performances won't go unnoticed for much longer, and Villa's main priority will be keeping him in the squad next year.
The match proved to be the shrewdest example of a game of two halves.
While Newcastle dominated the proceedings early on, they were pegged back in the second half, as Aston Villa looked to turn things around.
All in all, both Newcastle and Villa had one brilliant and one dreadful half Tuesday, showing why exactly none of them are higher up in the standings.
Even the slightest problems could prove to be vital in the relegation battle, and inconsistency will play a huge part in who survives to play another season in the top flight.
Both managers, Paul Lambert and Alan Pardew, will have to work hard to find a solution for this inconsistency in order to avoid relegation.