Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish again pointed the finger at bad defending as for defeat, as his side went down 2-1 at Newcastle United.

Newcastle had taken a 30th-minute lead, against the run of play, when Demba Ba drilled home his 16th goal of the season from close range.

Robbie Keane levelled deep into first-half stoppage time but Papiss Cisse claimed the winner in the 71st minute with a left-footed volley high into keeper Shay Given's top-right corner.

Villa might have snatched a point at the death but for fine saves from Tim Krul to deny first Ciaran Clark and then substitute Gary Gardner.

McLeish said: "The reason we lose goals is because we're defending well enough. But having said that, the chances we created were tremendous.

"I thought we played some really good football, especially first half."

McLeish insisted he had not withdrawn midfielder Stephen Ireland at half-time after the player reacted angrily to his manager's suggestion that he might have done better for Ba's goal.

The Scot said: "I know he spoke back, but at the same time, players don't like to hear the manager screaming at them from the touchline.

"But I kick every ball with them, I am passionate, I care and I wouldn't be so petty to take a player off for something like that if he is doing a fantastic job.

"But Stevie had an ankle problem. He wasn't able to close down and that was it."