BIRMINGHAM (AFP) - Hatem Ben Arfa once again made the difference for Newcastle United on Saturday, scoring one goal and creating another as the Magpies won 2-1 at Aston Villa.
The mercurial French winger, who netted with a brilliant individual effort to give Newcastle all three points against Fulham in their last outing before the international break, swept home from close range in the 18th minute to put the visitors in front.
Christian Benteke equalised midway through the second half but Newcastle were back in front just six minutes later when Brad Guzan pushed out a Ben Arfa shot and substitute Yoan Gouffran buried the loose ball.
Alan Pardew's side have now taken seven points from a possible nine but this was a third successive defeat for Villa since their opening-day win at Arsenal.
However, Paul Lambert's side could have been forgiven for being a little rusty having not played in the Premier League since their 1-0 home loss to Liverpool three weeks ago.
The home manager left deadline day signing Libor Kozak on the bench at kick-off, while Pardew handed a recall to Yohan Cabaye, after his hoped-for move away from the club over the summer failed to materialise, and gave another Frenchman, Loic Remy, his first start for the club.
Remy it was who created the opening goal in the 18th minute. Papiss Cisse could not connect properly with Remy's cutback from the left but Ben Arfa was in the right place at the right time to convert from close range.
Villa lost defender Jores Okore to a knee injury soon after and went more than 40 minutes without creating anything until Ciaran Clark fired into the side-netting and Andreas Weimann shot well wide after finding himself through on goal.
The half-time whistle was met by a chorus of boos by the home support, who then saw Gabriel Agbonlahor somehow fail to find the target after being set up by a low Weimann cross from the right soon after the restart.
The excellent Ben Arfa had a curling effort saved by Guzan but Villa did draw level in the 67th minute thanks to their star man Benteke.
The powerful Belgian centre-forward rose highest to head home at a corner in front of the Holte End for his fifth goal in as many games this season, and his 19th goal in his last 21 games for the club.
However, Newcastle struck again to clinch a deserved victory just five minutes later when Ben Arfa cut in from the right flank and unleashed a shot that Guzan could only lay on a plate for the grateful Gouffran, a second-half substitute for Remy.