Premiership: Villa lose chance to extend lead

Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer celebrated his 400th league game with a brilliant volley to help see off Premiership leaders Aston Villa.

Newcastle 3, Aston Villa 0 (full-time)

Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer celebrated his 400th league game with a brilliant volley to help see off Premiership leaders Aston Villa.

Shearer beat Villa goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel with a breath-taking strike four minutes after the break to double the lead Craig Bellamy's 37th-minute half-volley had given the home side.

But it was the Welshman who stole the show, rounding things off with his side's third on 82 minutes to take his tally for the season to 10.

The scoreline was an accurate reflection of a game which the Magpies dominated and Bellamy went close on two more occasions and was twice denied by superb saves from Schmeichel.

Villa rarely troubled Shay Given at the other end, but the Irishman did pull off one spectacular first-half stop from Hassan Kachloul to preserve his clean sheet.

Laurent Robert, passed fit after being laid low with a virus, could have put the Magpies in front with just two minutes gone when Bellamy picked out his run, but Schmeichel was equal to the task.

Shearer sent a looping header over the crossbar seconds later and Mark Delaney got in a vital block to deny Solano, but it took a moment of brilliance from Schmeichel to keep out Bellamy on 18 minutes.

Shearer's perfectly-weighted ball allowed Bellamy to race away from the cover, but although he drew the goalkeeper he somehow managed to get something on the ball to deflect it over the bar.

Gary Speed and Nikos Dabizas both sent headers over as Villa found themselves under increasing pressure, and they finally cracked eight minutes from the break.

Robbie Elliott managed to get Bellamy in on the wrong side of the massed claret and blue shirts with a deft chip and his finish was exquisite, a blistering half-volley which left Schmeichel with no chance.

Just four minutes after the restart, Rob Lee's cross fell for Shearer on the right edge of the Villa penalty area, and although the angle was tight, he guided a magnificent side-footed volley into the top corner.

John Gregory withdrew Juan Pablo Angel and Lee Hendrie and sent on Dion Dublin and Ian Taylor in their place, and his side were immediately more competitive.

As the space started to open up at the back, United pushed again, Bellamy shooting wide after racing clear and Robert curling a 20-yard effort past the post after the Welshman had again broken the cover.

But the former Coventry front man finally cashed in again eight minutes from time when he ran on to Lee's pass and prodded the ball between Schmeichel's legs to make it 3-0.

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