Ahmed Elmohamady’s late header rescued a point for Aston Villa at Newcastle, but it was not enough to lift Dean Smith’s relegation-threatened side out of the Premier League’s bottom three.
The Egyptian stooped low to divert his effort into the net from a corner just six minutes after coming on as a substitute, shortly after Dwight Gayle’s goal for Newcastle had looked like giving United the points.
Gayle’s impact was even more immediate than that of El Mohamady, with his neatly-taken finish coming just 94 seconds after he was introduced for the injured Matt Ritchie.
Villa’s point is reward for a first half in which they were the more positive of the two sides, and also their determination not to allow themselves to sink to another damaging defeat.
It may not take them out of the relegation zone but it will be a boost after they were denied by Sheffield United in their first game after the restart and allowed Chelsea to come back to beat them on Sunday.
Newcastle are now just a point shy of the 40-point mark – often cited as the tally required to ward off the threat of relegation.
Villa refuse to give up
It has been a frustrating return for Villa.
The repeated failure of their relegation rivals to pick up points has presented the opportunity for them to claw their way out of the bottom three, but although they have come close, they have not been able to find that elusive win.
Granted, they benefited from a failure of technology in their home draw against Sheffield United but having done so could easily have taken three points as opposed to one.
They then almost burgled a win against Chelsea on Sunday, taking the lead despite having precious little of the ball, before the Blues rallied to turn the game their way.
This may only be the second point they have taken from the last 21 avaialable to them but it is a timely boost, reminding them that they can mix it with some of the top-flight’s most stubborn sides and may yet well edge themselves ahead of a faltering pack of sides above them.
They should have led in the first half, but Trezeguet and Mbwana Samatta both spurned chances on their return to the side.
The best fell to the former, who hit his back-post effort into the ground and over after being found by a superb cross from Ezri Konsa.
Newcastle’s goal could have been a hammer blow, but in the end it was the home side hanging on.
Newcastle take the positives
Newcastle produced arguably one the finest displays of the first initial round of games back, winning 3-0 at home against an admittedly under-par Sheffield United, who played for 40 minutes with 10 men.
Everything that could have gone right for the Magpies did in that game and it looked like that form was going to continue on Wednesday, as misfortune in the shape of Ritchie’s injury immediately turned into a positive courtesy of Gayle’s tidy finish – his first Premier League goal in 773 days.
The assist for that goal also came from a man making a quick impact, with Andy Carroll’s pass coming just four minutes and 51 seconds after he had been sent on by Steve Bruce.
Before then, the home side had battled hard but were too reliant on the creative pair of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, who threatened in flashes but failed to produce anything decisive.
After breaking his 27 game and 10 month drought on Sunday, Joelinton could have added another league strike to his meagre tally of two, but Tyrone Mings denied him with a superb challenge in the box.
Elmohamady’s goal is a setback, ending a run of three successive clean sheets, but only a minor one for a side that have already exceeded many critics’ expectations this season.
Bruce was asked after the game if would have taken 39 points at this stage of the campaign if offered it at the beginning. His positive answer will be a surprise to nobody.
Man of the match – Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa)
Newcastle extend home run – the stats you need to know
Newcastle are now unbeaten in five Premier League games at St James’ Park (W2 D3), with Aston Villa’s goal the first they have conceded on home soil since New Years’ Day against Leicester (0-3).
Aston Villa have picked up just two points from the last 21 available in the Premier League (P7 W0 D2 L5), although they have avoided defeat on the road for the first time in four games.
Since beating Dean Smith’s Brentford with Hull back in April 2016, Steve Bruce remains winless in seven games against his fellow Englishman (D3 L4) including both Premier League matches with Newcastle this season (D1 L1).
Andy Carroll’s assist for Newcastle’s opening goal was his fourth in the Premier League in his last eight appearances, as many as he managed to register across his previous 100 in the competition.
Ahmed Elmohamady’s equaliser for Aston Villa was his second Premier League goal at St James’ Park, also scoring for Hull City there in September 2013 under Steve Bruce. Newcastle are the only side he has netted more than once against in the top flight.
Aston Villa host in-form Wolves at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime, while Newcastle could do today’s opponents a favour if they beat struggling Bournemouth in their next fixture at the Vitality Stadium at 18:00 BST on Wednesday, 1 July.
Chelsea made the stronger start to the game with Giroud knocking in several dangerous crosses within the first 10 minutes.
Mason Mount looked like he was going to break the deadlock on 20 minutes when he shifted the ball onto his left foot 20 yards from goal and forced Nyland into a spectacular save.
The Blues dominance made Kortney Hause‘s first Premier League goal all the more surprising when it came just before half-time.
Boasting 75% of the possession, Chelsea were unable to keep his right-footed shot out after a perfect cross into the box from Douglas Luiz.
Hause failed to get a clean attempt on it the first time but Chelsea keeper Kepa spilled the ball and Hause was there again to make sure it went in the second time.
With no changes for either side at half-time, Chelsea continued to dominate but failed to produce any clear chances for the first 15 minutes.
Lampard sought to freshen up his side and make a double substitution on 55 minutes with Mateo Kovacic and Reuben Loftus-Cheek making way for Ross Barkley and Pulisic.
The introduction of the U.S. international proved to be the turning point for Lampard’s side. In a carbon copy of the ball Luiz had dropped into the box for Hause’s goal, Cesar Azpilicueta floated a ball into the box and Pulisic struck it home from the back post.
Villa were left staggering when just two minutes later Giroud was given the space to turn and get a shot off that went flying past Orjan Nyland.
The win helps Chelsea cement their place in the top four while Aston Villa remain in the relegation zone, two points from safety.
Chelsea returned to Premier League action by coming from behind to beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa and strengthen their bid for a top-four finish.
The Blues dominated the first half but fell behind when Kepa failed to hold Anwar El Ghazi’s shot and Kortney Hause was on hand to bundle in.
Chelsea fought back after the break and turned the game on its head with two goals in as many minutes.
First, substitute Christian Pulisic smashed Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross into the roof of the net at the far post before Olivier Giroud drove in from 15 yards with the help of a slight deflection.
The win means fourth-placed Chelsea restored their five-point advantage over Manchester United and Wolves, who are fifth and sixth respectively.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone, one point from safety after taking one point from their first two games back following the resumption of the Premier League.
Chelsea pick up from where they left off
The suspension of the season had perhaps come at a frustrating time for Chelsea. They had just beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round and then thrashed Everton 4-0 in the league.
But, 105 days on from that win against the Toffees, Chelsea looked fresh and motivated from the outset against a Villa side fighting for survival.
The only concern, however, was their inability to turn chances into goals – particularly in the first half.
Mason Mount saw a powerful strike kept out by Villa keeper Orjan Nyland before Ruben Loftus-Cheek, making a welcome return to the side after a year out with injury, just failed to turn home a teasing ball across the face of goal.
It could have proved costly, particularly when Villa scored from only their second shot on target to take the lead.
In the end Chelsea got the job done but, with 19 attempts on goal, they should perhaps have won by a more comfortable margin.
The signing of Timo Werner for next season will hopefully address Chelsea’s struggles to make the most of their opportunities but for now, Frank Lampard will hope his current forwards will use the striker’s impending arrival as motivation to be more clinical in the end-of-season run-in.
Cesar’s rare double – the stats
Aston Villa have now lost five Premier League games after scoring first this season, two more than any other side in the competition.
Chelsea have won 10 of their last 11 Premier League matches against Aston Villa (L1), with Frank Lampard either appearing as a player or managing the Blues in six of those 10 wins.
Aston Villa have failed to win any of their last 21 Premier League matches against teams starting the day in the top four (D4 L17), since a 1-0 win at home to Chelsea in March 2014.
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic has been directly involved in seven goals in his last eight away Premier League games (five goals, two assists).
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his last seven games against Aston Villa in all competitions, netting nine goals in the process (eight for Arsenal, one for Chelsea).
Aston Villa’s Kortney Hause’s opener against Chelsea was his first Premier League goal, meaning he has now scored in each of the top four divisions in English football, with today just his seventh league goal.
Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta provided two assists in a single Premier League game for only the second time in his 263-game English top-flight career – also doing so versus Stoke in September 2017.
Frank Lampard took charge of his 100th match in his managerial career, winning 46 of those 100 games in all competitions with current side Chelsea (22), and Derby County (24).