Aston Villa 2 – 0 Newcastle United
With offside controversy still at the back of fans minds, Aston Villa had the opportunity to get up to speed and get some points on the board. Newcastle, the opposition, came into the evening clash with five losses and no wins in their last seven games. It would be another Villa Park return for Steve Bruce, though he wouldn’t be coming up against Dean Smith in the home dugout. The Villa manager would be situated in the Villa director’s box, after his Etihad run-in with Jon Moss.
John McGinn was the only player to drop out of the starting XI due to an accumulative five yellow card suspension. Marvelous Nakamba came in for a rare start, his place on the bench was taken up by the now virus and injury free Trezeguet.
Newcastle would have Callum Wilson starting up-front. The 28-year-old reportedly chose Tyneside over Aston in the summer. This was due to his son watching the film ‘Goal’, and definitely not because of a few extra quid on offer up north.
Despite Andy Carroll being a nuisance from time-to-time in the Villa box, Dean Smith’s men cruised through the first half. Ollie Watkins opened the scoring after a period of Villa pressure. Matt Targett and Jack Grealish linked up, and Targett played a ball in behind the Newcastle defence. After a deflection it was Watkins to head into the back of the net. A second goal for Watkins was chalked off due to offside, but Villa fans wouldn’t have long to wait for another goal. A lovely one-two between Jack Grealish and Bertrand Traore after a corner, resulted in a stunning finish from Traore.
With Newcastle looking as pedestrian as they did, the second half would surely be a walk in the park.
Jamie Carragher described Newcastle as a “team that’s drifting, doing nothing” and the second-half really demonstrated this. It was a bit of a non event, as Villa passed the ball up and down the pitch while the Magpies stood like statues and did little to influence the end result. Ollie Watkins and Douglas Luiz had the best chances, straight after half-time, as Watkins shot was saved and Douglas was unable to fully connect with the ball. There was never any doubt that Villa were going to come out as winners. Unlike the Newcastle players, Newcastle fans would have definitely been pressing something, the off button on their TVs.
While this is definitely a reminder of how Villa have progressed, there aren’t going to be many easier games this season. Burnley won’t be as much of a pushover, especially after an impressive victory at Anfield in the week.
Emiliano Martinez – 8
There weren’t a lot of shots to test Emi Martinez. Where the 6-foot-5 ‘keeper impressed was in his presence around the box, and his distribution. Any crosses that were vaguely close to the goal, Martinez would be out in a flash to catch. Several times, he then fizzed the ball forward, a particularly impressive example of this was a pass right into the feet of Ollie Watkins.
Matty Cash – 8
Miguel Almiron and Jamal Lewis often tried to get a cross away or work some space on the left, but Matty Cash was always equal to them. He also darted forwards, and linked up to create crossing opportunities with Bertrand Traore. When Newcastle crosses were fired from the right towards the back post, Cash was there to clear.
Ezri Konsa – 8.5
When Newcastle did put in some effort and got onto the front foot, Ezri Konsa was the man to cut out the attack. In the first half, he pushed into midfield once or twice to intercept passes. When Mings made his biggest error of the game, Konsa came to the rescue and righted the ship. Even when he played an overly intricate pass in the first half, that was intercepted, the 23-year-old positioned himself well enough to stop Callum Wilson causing any problems.
Tyrone Mings – 7.5
Tyrone Mings was a touch lucky to get away some sloppy play, which allowed Newcastle to break in behind. Against any other team, these may have been punished, but Newcastle were truly awful. Otherwise Villa’s defensive leader was given time and space to play passes, charge forward, and basically do whatever he wanted. Mings’ 11 clearances led the team, Newcastle’s only threat was from out wide, and Mings had the beating of Wilson and Carroll in the air.
Matt Targett – 8.5
Last season Matt Targett was often accused of being made of glass, and shying away from big tackles. Matt Targett this season, and in this game couldn’t be further from that. Crunching tackles, flying into diving blocks, winning aerial battles, Targett’s game has really improved from a defensive perspective.
From an attacking perspective, there was also something to be impressed about. The simple overlap with Jack Grealish created the crossing opportunity, and the delivery in was exactly what was needed to cause problems for Fabian Schar.
Marvelous Nakamba – 8
Marvelous Nakamba had all the time in the world to play his simple game, as Newcastle stood back and watched. His 98.5% pass accuracy goes to demonstrate just how passive Steve Bruce’s men were. On the times where Villa lost the ball, or a defender was pulled out of position, there was Marvelous to fill in or make a tackle. A very assured performance, that allowed other players to show their creativity.
Douglas Luiz – 8
In his more advanced midfield role, Douglas Luiz had a very good game. He played more passes than any other Villa player, and was key to rotating the ball from right to left on the attack. The 22-year-old showed off some bursting runs into the box, which allowed him to get into position to fire wide just after half-time.
Bertrand Traore – 8.5
Bertrand Traore can’t do a lot with his right foot, but he can score goals with it. Three of Traore’s Five goals this season have come with his right foot. The Burkina Faso international was full of energy and tricks down the right-wing. He linked up well with Matty Cash to create crossing opportunities, and the finish for his goal was truly incredible. On top of this, his passing was sublime, with passes across the pitch, and whipped crosses into the box.
Ross Barkley – 7
While there were pleasing elements of Ross Barkley’s performance, there was still some rustiness. His final pass was often just off the target, and he overplayed on occasion. When he gets on the ball on the counter attack, it looks like something is going to happen, and his athleticism makes those breaks so much quicker.
Jack Grealish © – 8
Super Jack Grealish had a few colourful words to say as he was taken off after 88 minutes. He had plenty of opportunities to break, and he set up plenty of opportunities, he had three key passes. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Jack to get a goal, with his last coming against West Ham, but his only attempt was deflected wide.
Ollie Watkins – 9 MOTM
Ollie Watkins finally got his goal. All of the hard work that Villa’s record signing put in came to fruition, as he charged in behind and showed more desire than Karl Darlow to get on the end of Matt Targett’s deflected cross. The hold-up play and work-rate from Watkins all evening was top notch, the Newcastle centre-halves couldn’t deal with his movement and pace, as Villa powered forward on the attack.
Off the Bench
Anwar El Ghazi (79) – 5.5
Anwar El Ghazi had seven touches in his time on the pitch. It was a fantastic opportunity for the Dutchman to add to his goals tally, with Newcastle looking as poor as they did, and Villa breaking so easily, but El Ghazi couldn’t get himself in position to get a shot in.
Trezeguet (79) – 6
Trezeguet looked lively in his just over ten minute cameo. He fluffed his lines when presented with a fantastic opportunity late on. One thing that has to be said is, at least he always seems to be in the right positions to score, he just needs to recapture his finishing from the end of last season.
Jacob Ramsey (87) – n/a
There wasn’t a lot of time left on the clock as Jacob Ramsey entered the field of play. The highlight of his evening was a very nice pass out to El Ghazi on the left.
Dean Smith – 8
While Villa didn’t really get out of first gear in either half, there was still plenty to be pleased about for Dean Smith. Villa needed to win to put the two dissapointing results against the Manchester clubs in the past, and they easily did that. While the team was guilty of overplaying at times, some of the passes and moves attempted show just how high confidence is within the claret and blue ranks. Villa could have, on another day, put four or five past Newcastle.
After drawing nil-nil with Burnley earlier this season, when the Clarets were in much worse form, beating them at Turf Moor would be fantastic. It’ll certainly be a tougher outing than against Newcastle. The other challenge for a game at Turf Moor, is coming away with no injuries, fingers crossed it ends better than the last match there.