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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Villa clip Magpies' wings
Solano curls the ball round the Aston Villa wall
Solano curls the ball round the Villa wall for the opening goal
Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa

Newcastle's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League took a knock after they were held by Aston Villa at St James' Park.

After three consecutive league defeats, a Nolberto Solano goal stopped the rot for Newcastle but Dion Dublin's second-half header ensured that honours were even.

And with nearest rivals Chelsea and Liverpool winning, the Magpies have conceded pole position in the race for a Champions League place.

A gruelling encounter saw Newcastle's Alan Shearer and Villa's Gareth Barry clash heads after 11 minutes which resulted in the former England captain requiring stitches and Barry not making it out for the second half.

Meanwhile, Villa's Rob Edwards limped off before half-time while Newcastle lost Jonathan Woodgate shortly after the break with a thigh injury.

Shearer's gashed head did not stop him almost nodding Newcastle ahead 10 minutes later only to see Thomas Hitzlsperger clear off the line.

And it was Newcastle who looked much the more likely of the two sides to score in the first half.

11 mins: Barry and Shearer clash heads
37 mins: Solano puts Newcastle ahead with a superb free-kick
69 mins: Dublin heads Villa level

Solano broke the deadlock from a free-kick after Barry fouled Kieron Dyer, with the Villa defender's protests earning a booking and prompting the referee to move the free-kick forward 10 yards.

The Peruvian stepped up and with his right foot curled the ball around the wall and into the top right-hand corner of the net.

But Craig Bellamy squandered two gilt-edged chances, the first after 17 minutes when Andy Griffin's long ball hit the back of Shearer's head and dropped nicely for him, but the Welshman's attempt to lob Enckelman was weak.

Then Bellamy was presented with another opening on the stroke of half-time after Dyer robbed Barry and surged down the right, but this time sliced his left-foot effort well wide.

Shearer nearly doubled his side's lead on 50 minutes when he blasted a first-time drive just wide after Dyer had dummied Viana's pass.

But Villa came out of the dressing room with renewed purpose and created several chances of their own.

And substitute Dublin put them level on 69 minutes with virtually his first touch, a header from Staunton's cross.

There was then a sense of urgency about Newcastle's play with Peter Enckelman producing a vital save from Bellamy with 71 minutes gone and Mellberg somehow taking the Welshman's cross off Shearer's toe in front of goal a minute later.

Shearer, with blood seeping from his bandaged head, was then finally forced to come off the pitch but Newcastle continued to search for a winner.

Substitute Lomano LuaLua hit the outside of the post in the dying seconds but in the end Newcastle's inablity to finish may cost them dearly.

Newcastle: Given, Griffin, Woodgate (Bramble 52), O'Brien, Bernard (LuaLua 73), Solano, Dyer, Hughes, Viana, Shearer (Ameobi 74), Bellamy. Subs not used: Acuna, Harper.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Mellberg, Staunton, Johnsen, Samuel, Edwards (Taylor 33), Hitzlsperger (Dublin 65), Leonhardsen, Barry (Whittingham 45), Allback, Vassell. Subs not used: Angel, Postma.
Booked: Barry.

Attendance: 52,015

Referee: J Winter (Cleveland).

BBC Five Live's John Murray
"This slump in form could cost Newcastle very, very dear"

Newcastle boss Sir Bobby Robson
"I still feel we have enough quality to see us through"



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