Hatem Ben Arfa’s second half screamer earned Newcastle United a point at home to a spirited Aston Villa yesterday. Ciaran Clark’s header had put Paul Lambert’s side on course for their first Premier League win of the season, but Ben Arfa’s amazing strike ensured the points were shared at St James’ Park.

Both sides had chances to win it too, with the last kick of the game almost finding the back of Brad Guzan’s net to give Newcastle maximum points, but Yohan Cabaye’s curling free-kick was repelled by the American goalkeeper.

Villa started impressively, not at all looking like a side that propped up the Premier League table, and deservedly led halfway through the first 45 minutes. Darren Bent had gone close moments earlier when he was denied by Tim Krul, but Clark was on hand to head home Barry Bannan’s cross minutes later.

The Geordies looked for a response through their Senegalese strikers but neither could live up to the heights they showed at stages last season. Papiss Cisse – who scored a stunner in the corresponding fixture last season – had a shot tipped round the post by Guzan, while Ba was unlucky too.

However it was the Magpies’ player of the season so far who rescued them from trouble, when Ben Arfa collected the ball 25 yards out. Shown inside onto his weaker right foot, the defenders thought they had done their jobs, but Ben Arfa accepted the challenge, cutting inside and rifling a rasping drive into Guzan’s top corner. Once again, the Frenchman had inspired his side and lit up the home crowd.

Stephen Ireland – who endured a miserable loan spell with Newcastle a few years ago – could have won the game for Villa when he found space inside the area, but only smashed it wide with the goal at his mercy.

Cabaye’s free-kick was the closest Newcastle came to claiming all three points, but the impressive Guzan – picked ahead of former Toon keeper Shay Given – somehow kept it out.