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Dropped Given sees replacement Guzan pull off 'two world-class' saves for Villa

It is a ground in which he has many happy memories but Shay Given was forced to watch from the bench yesterday as his former team bounced back to earn a point thanks to a stunning strike from Hatem Ben Arfa.

Given has endured a difficult couple of months and, after his error against Everton last week, was dropped by Villa boss Paul Lambert in favour of Brad Guzan, who could do nothing to prevent Ben Arfa's stunner.

"Shay is a world-class goalkeeper and my opinion of him has not changed," said Lambert. "But Brad has made two world-class saves out there and I made a decision I thought was right for the team."

The Frenchman is one of a clutch of Newcastle players who have been linked with a move elsewhere after their impressive form at St James's Park, although manager Alan Pardew freely admits some of his star names had their heads turned by those with a vested interest in getting them to move this summer.

Villa did well enough to send Lambert home happy after securing their first point of the season and, particularly in the first half, his side were the better one.

They took the lead at the end of a bright opening 20 minute spell through Ireland defender Ciaran Clark's header and then harried and harassed Newcastle to ensure they could not find any flow.

"I'm delighted with the team because this is an extremely difficult place to come," said Lambert. "I think our fans know we are in transition, but they also know they are going to get a team which will run until it drops. It was a really big effort and I believe in these players."

Yet, there was also something worryingly insipid about Newcastle's performance as their star names from last season once again failed to shine. Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Demba Cisse were pale imitations of the players that inspired Newcastle to a fifth-place finish.

"We weren't quite right today," said Pardew. "Some of our players aren't bang in form and I need to get to grips with that.

"I have some sympathy for the players. They get people, agents who aren't even their own, ringing them up and promising them the world. There are some terrible people in and around the game.

"If somebody says they can get a deal done which is going to double your money, it's going to affect you."

Villa were the sharper, snappier side, Darren Bent kept out by the legs of Tim Krul, although it needed a brilliant tackle from Fabricio Coloccini to prevent Andreas Weimann from sweeping in the rebound.

Villa did take the lead when Newcastle struggled to clear a corner. Clark played the ball out to Barry Bannan and then continued his run to meet the cross firmly with his forehead.

Newcastle needed a quick response and finally the ball started to move with some purpose. Finally Cisse and Demba Ba began to make their markers worry and they combined well, only for Guznan to save a Cisse shot with his legs. From the resulting corner, Vurnon Anita fired into the side nettingi.

Both sides might have won it, Stephen Ireland missing Villa's best chance when he sliced a volley wide, before a magnificent save from Guznan kept Cabaye's free-kick out of the top corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent