BIRMINGHAM – Leon Best scored an equalizer in the second half as Newcastle rescued a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday to leave both teams unbeaten in the Premier League this season.
Best's third goal of the season drew praise from his manager Alan Pardew, who promised him an extended run in the side if he keeps scoring.
''Leon has great belief in himself. He gets a start, he gets a goal, and he keeps the shirt, it's as simple as that in my book,'' Pardew said.
Gabriel Agbonlahor gave Villa the lead at the second attempt when his volley from Barry Bannan's left-footed cross hit Fabricio Coloccini and rebounded back to the England striker to score from close range in the 13th minute.
Agbonlahor's goal kickstarted Villa and he almost scored again after the break with a low shot on the turn that curled just wide from Charles N'Zogbia's pass.
''We started in a blistering way. There was a good feeling after the first goal and we were opening them up and looked dangerous,'' Villa manager Alex McLeish said.
Best equalized when Shay Given saved his far-post header from Cheik Tiote's cross, only for the ball to fall at the Ireland striker's feet for an easy finish.
Villa was left to regret missed chances from the normally reliable England striker Darren Bent, who side-footed wide from eight yards (meters) in the 26th minute and failed to make sure with a lob over goalkeeper Tim Krul that Steven Taylor cleared in the second half with the scores level.
''We could have been better in the final third,'' McLeish acknowledged. ''We were a bit careless and we've got to be more ruthless in those situations. Benty had a right good chance to make it 2-0 and it is not like him to miss those chances but he is only human.''
Newcastle's final opportunity fell to Yohan Cabaye in the 87th, but his stinging drive was turned round the post by former Magpies goalkeeper Shay Given to keep the scores even.