Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Aston Villa 2–0 Newcastle United
A humbling defeat for Bruce’s men in the Black Country tonight as Villa barely left first gear and still managed to destroy a feeble Newcastle United at Villa Park.
With the seemingly realistic prospect of United going sixth before kick off, one might have expected Newcastle to be right up for this one.
Instead two goals, first Hourihane and then from El Ghazi, both from needlessly conceded free kicks, allowed the home side to cruise to a comfortable win.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Dummett (Carroll, 63), Clark, Fernandez, Willems, Shelvey, Hayden, Almiron (Atsu, 79), Saint-Maximin, Joelinton (Gayle, 72)
The signs were there form the start. And even though Villa had lost all of their last three it was pretty clear that only one team was going to come away from anything from this one from the first whistle.
Sharper in their movement, a desire to hunt the ball with a high press, and a comfort to be on the ball when they had it. To a man the home side outshone Newcastle in every department.
Only Dubravka and the ever lively Saint-Maximin, who didn’t give up even when things didn’t work our for him, can come out of this one with any credit on the playing side. It’s hard to know what to think of the players performance really, when the team was obviously set up to play in a certain way, were overrun from the first kick, and nothing was changed.
It is a little perplexing also that Bruce, so early into his career at NUFC, has chosen to call out Rafa for his inability to change Newcastle’s style of football. Not a tactic I’d be deploying with the Geordie faithful that’s for sure.
And then there is, what now seems to be, an indication that the Spaniard was also right to have reservations about United’s big money signing up front. Joelinton once more failing to score or have any real impact on the game. Again, when you spend 89 minutes sitting in your own last third I guess it’s hard to judge the lad.
What will be frustrating for Steve Bruce is the manner in which both goals were conceded. In fact, but for two needlessly conceded free-kicks Newcastle may have somehow escaped with a point.
First it was a two handed push from Yedlin in the back Jack Grealish that allowed the home side to take the lead. The resultant set piece a cracker with the ball being shifted ever so slightly to the left of the wall to allow a curling effort to find it’s way into the net.
Newcastle could feel a little more hard done by with the second as Jack Grealish once more was felled. This time replays seemed to show the young Englishman clearly running into Fernandez to gain the free kick although questions still have to be asked about the defending.
This time the set piece was whipped into the box by Hourihane to allow El Ghazi to tap home.
Newcastle, for their part, managed little in the way of anything in front of goal. A Saint-Maximin drive being the closest the visitors would come. And with half chances at best for Hayden and substitute Carroll both tame, it was a thoroughly miserable night for all in black and white.
As for the substitution of Gayle, you have to wonder what the thinking was, or indeed if there was every a ‘Plan B’. Despite being on the pitch for over 20 mins you could literally count the number of touches he had on one hand. With the Villains having crumbled late on in more than one game recently, in fact conceding 9 goals in the last 10 minutes this season (more than any other club), you’d have thought there would be some thought as to how United’s strikers would get on the ball in the final knockings if it came to that.