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Newcastle United registered their first away win of the campaign to put the pressure on fellow strugglers Aston Villa following a 2-1 victory at Villa Park.
First-half goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye put Newcastle in command and ended a sequence of 17 games without a victory away from St James' Park in all competitions this season.
Villa managed to reply through a Christian Benteke penalty early in the second period but the home side could not find an equaliser.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew handed debuts to the French duo of Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran and the former set up the opening goal for Cisse.
His side dominated the opening 45 minutes with Sissoko quickly settling into his central midfield role. Then Newcastle showed enough know-how and experience to take the sting out of the second period after initially threatening to be over-run by a rejuvenated Villa.
Villa have now lost their last three home league games against fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic, Southampton and now the Magpies. They have taken only two points from their last seven games in addition to their double cup setback against Bradford City and Millwall.
Lambert started Benteke and Darren Bent up front for the first time in a league match since September.
Villa looked to have claims for a penalty after 14 minutes after Benteke ran onto a pass from Bent. His low cross appeared to strike the hand of Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini but referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Newcastle looked the more assured side and Davide Santon forced the first save of the game from Villa keeper Brad Guzan with a dipping drive. It came as no surprise when Cisse broke the deadlock for Newcastle after 19 minutes with his seventh goal of the campaign.
Sissoko supplied the telling pass which was seized onto by Cisse. He kept his composure and drilled a low shot past Guzan into the corner of the net.
Villa tried to retaliate and former Newcastle player Charles N'Zogbia came close to equalising three minutes later. His 25-yard drive contained too much power for Tim Krul but crashed against the woodwork.
But Newcastle doubled their lead after 31 minutes with a stunning strike from Cabaye. Villa skipper Ron Vlaar's headed clearance from a Jonas Gutierrez centre fell straight to the midfielder whose volley from just outside past the box flew past the despairing dive of Guzan.
Benteke created a yard of space for himself with a sharp turn after controlling a centre from Ashley Westwood but he could not keep his shot down.
Lambert made a double half-time substitution with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann replacing Bent and Joe Bennett.
Villa began the second period with more impetus and Krul was twice tested in quick succession, beating out Weimann's shot on the turn and then parrying Benteke's fierce drive.
The home side were given a life-line after 48 minutes when Mathieu Debuchy conceded a penalty after a challenge on Agbonlahor when going away from goal. Up stepped Benteke to send Krul the wrong way from the spot for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Villa were revitalised and N'Zogbia's rising snap-shot was only inches off target. Weimann then got clear of the Newcastle defence from Benteke's pass but Krul was equal to his low drive.
Villa failed to maintain the early impetus of the second period although they continued to dominate territorially. Jonas Gutierrez cleared a Matt Lowton header off the line as Newcastle held on to claim the three points.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We paid the price for starting too slowly. We just never got going in the first half. The second half, that's the way to play football. The first goal was really disappointing; the second goal, you sometimes can't stop them - it was a terrific strike - and then you are facing an uphill battle. But I couldn't fault them for the way they played in the second half. It is the first time I've seen a standing ovation when you've been beaten, especially at home.
"I just said to the players 'you can't play like that in the first half and turn that performance in during the second half'. It is sometimes easier to play when you are 2-0 down because no-one expects anything then. You've got to start like that - and we never started."
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: "When you are looking for players and trying to find the secret ingredient for your team, it's not always easy for players to come and fit in as they did in the first half. I was a little bit surprised myself if I'm honest. I don't think we would have won the game without [Moussa] Sissoko. That's how important I think that signing was. Sissoko really grabbed the game by the horns and that's what we needed.
"With Demba Ba departing from a team that hasn't been winning, it was a big blow for us and we really needed him for this game. We have worked really hard on integrating the new players. They are not here to save us, they are here to help us. That was my message to the established players.
"We had a nice night in the hotel last night, a nice meeting, and you sensed there was a good feeling amongst them all. It has been a terrific day for us because we were under a lot of pressure tonight. We lost such an important game against Reading that we couldn't afford to lose tonight. We couldn't afford to draw after going 2-0 up.
"That showed second half when we were a bit rash, lost control, and the French boys certainly felt the difference between the Premier League and Ligue 1. Villa came at us full steam and that is where they have to learn quickly. They are both leaving in wheelchairs because they've got cramp."
|02 Feb 2013||v Everton (A)|
|10 Feb 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|23 Feb 2013||v Arsenal (A)|
|04 Mar 2013||v Man City (H)|
|09 Mar 2013||v Reading (A)|
|16 Mar 2013||v QPR (H)|