Aston Villa (1) vs Newcastle (3) – Our Villans lay an egg at Villa Park against Newcastle

Tuesday, January 30th, 20:00 – Villa Park

Referee: John Brooks

An evening game at Villa Park on the back of a spirited game at Stamford Bridge appeared to be just what our Villans needed to get over their recent doldrums.  Instead, it was the impetus that Newcastle needed to get their Premier League campaign going in the right direction. 

To give our visitors credit, from the kickoff they demonstrated the energy we had shown against Manchester City back in December.  Dan Burn out-hustled Matty Cash and Anthony Gordon evaded Boubacar Kamara with ease necessitating a foul that could have led to a yellow card in the opening minutes of the game.

When we did win a corner, there was no set-play and McGinn wasted the opportunity by connecting with Burn with nary a claret and blue shirt in the vicinity.  Then, Lewis Miley, Newcastle’s 17-year-old out-ran Luiz, Kamara, and McGinn and came close to finding Murphy in a dangerous position, only to overhit the cross.  That was in the 14th minute and Villa fans were audibly restive.

Finally, our Villans were able to put some passes together but Diaby, with a chance to shoot, elected to try to pick out Ollie Watkins who was well-covered, probably because the $50 million signing does not trust his right-foot.  A couple of minutes later, Gordon broke in, alone on Martinez, but Emi was out quickly and covered.  Isak had another bite of that cherry, but he was off-balance, and his shot went wide of the post.  A close call in the 21st minute!

In the 27th minute, Cash smashed a shot that rebounded off Burn and came right back to him. This time he was able to get beyond the defense, only for the shot to go straight to Dúbravka who collected easily.  That was our Villans’ first shot on goal and they had still not really got into the game.

When, a couple of minutes later, the Magpies broke down the right, Murphy was able to get a shot on Martinez who had the angle covered but was unable to gather.  Longstaff moved in and would have hit the back of the net if not for a sliding Lenglet blocking the shot.

Around the 30-minute mark, our Villans finally showed the creativity that got them to their lofty position in the first half of the season.  With McGinn buzzing busily and pinning the Magpies on their back feet, Luiz was fed ten yards outside the penalty area.  There was a phalanx of black and white shirts between him and Dúbravka.  Kamara, in the inside-right channel, saw the opportunity and ran diagonally towards the penalty spot, beyond the Magpie line and Luiz chipped a perfect pass for the Frenchman to run onto.

To his credit, Boubacar reached the pass but was stretching and could not control, and Dúbravka grabbed the errant ball.  A goal by Kamara, in that manner, would have changed the momentum of the game.  Instead, the Magpies continued to press.

Soon after Guimarães received a pass just outside his own penalty area, carried forward and then, seeing that Gordon was leaving Kamara in his wake, lofted a 50-yard pass for the $50 million signing from Everton to run onto.  Konsa did well to cut across and force Gordon to veer to his right to shoot from, but from where Ezri was able to get his left foot in the way. The deflection spun over the bar. Ezri to the rescue again!

With Trippier taking the corner, it came as no surprise that the intense pressure finally paid off.  The ball arrived at the 6-yard box with tremendous topspin that Watkins, and others, misjudged and got under.  With Konsa well-positioned to clear, Fabian Schär ran from the penalty spot and wrapped his right boot around Ezri to meet the ball as it came down and tuck it into the near corner.  In the process, the Swiss international had shucked-off Luiz, like a cumbersome cape. Konsa and Luiz exchanged looks that suggested that the other could have done better, but without much conviction.  Aston Villa 0, Newcastle 1 in the 32nd minute.

Our Villans came back, and Watkins did well to control a pass on his chest and turn on Botman only to have the Dutch international make an excellent slide to poke the ball from Ollie to Schär, now back for his defensive duties.

With a few quick passes, the Magpies were counterattacking again, and Murphy was able to square the ball behind our backline toward Gordon, waiting for a tap-in.  An alert Cash intercepted at the cost of a corner.

This time our Villans made sure to get a head on the cross before it reached the danger area.  It was Moreno who managed to clear but only as far as Gordon, patrolling outside of the box.  The winger watched the ball come down and hit it on the volley and on-target.  Lenglet managed to get a foot on the shot diverting it such that it crashed against the underside of the crossbar above the leaping Emi.  The rebound landed just in front of Martinez.  It was Schär who was closest as he had waited when others moved forward. Perhaps he had sensed the opportunity with Moreno still on his knees, bundled over competing for the defensive header, negating any offside problem.

Schar had enough composure to nutmeg the sprawled goalie and make it a brace for himself.  Our Villans were gobsmacked.  Two goals by a central defender, who had not scored prior in the Premier League this season and only once last season.  The goal was in the 36th minute, just four minutes after their first goal.  Aston Villa 0, Newcastle 2.

When Isak went down in the 40th minute of his own volition and had to be substituted, what should have been a boost to our Villans’ chances was a non-issue.  The goals had not come from their forwards and Isak was not involved in either!

Arguably, our Villans last chance to get on an even-keel to make something out of the game came in the first half injury time.  A Luiz corner found the head of John McGinn open in the 6-yard box only for our captain to shed his defender but then headed over the bar from point-blank range. 

The whistle blew for halftime and our Villans traipsed to the dressing room having conjured up only three shots in 45 minutes compared to the visitors’ nine.

In the 50th minute, our Villans found another way to come close.  A superb pass by Tielemans split the Magpie defense and Watkins reached the ball just before Dúbravka, racing off his line.  Ollie tried to deflect the ball around the goalie only for his foot to ride up on the ball and into Dúbravka’s thigh.  A few inches lower and Ollie might have reduced the Magpies’ lead.  Instead, the visitors had a freekick and a limping goalie.

Less than two minutes later, our Villans attempt to press on the right set-up a counterattack for the visitors.  Gordon and Almirón, who had come in for Isak, broke down the left and the speedy Paraguayan was able to square the ball across the face of our Villans’ goal for Murphy to tap-in at the far post.

It became even more evident that this was not our Villans day when, instead of hitting the net, Murphy fluffed his lines and squared the ball back in the direction it had come from.  Unfortunately Moreno, a step behind the play, was already sliding to avoid running into the post.  Moreno and the ball ended up in the net.  Instead of Martinez gathering the loose ball, our Villans were further down thanks to an own goal.   Aston Villa 0, Newcastle 3 in the 52nd minute

With Diaby on borrowed time in the 60th minute, Ollie threaded a pass for the Frenchman to run onto and, though beating Dúbravka to it and swerving around him, he had a difficult angle to shoot from.  Many are wondering how a player of his ability can be so weak with his right foot and, again, his shot was decidedly feeble and Botman steered it out for a corner with the keeper stranded.

Sure enough, immediately Diaby, with Kamara and Tielemans were replaced by Ramsey, Zaniolo, and Bailey.  Of the three, it was Bailey who had real impact.  In the 69th minute, he pivoted and left Burn spinning, then lofted a pass down the right wing for Cash to run onto.  Matty carried into the box and, despite a challenging angle unleashed a shot at the far post that Dúbravka did well to save.

Two minutes later, Leon did even better.  Running onto a beautiful pass over the top from McGinn, he immediately rifled the ball to edge of the 6-yard box where Watkins, ahead of Schär, first timed high and wide of Dúbravka.  Aston Villa 1, Newcastle 3 in the 71st minute.

Just two minutes later, and our Villans had the ball in the back of the net again thanks to the same duo.  This time, Bailey gained possession in the inside right channel and noted Ollie breaking through the Magpie backline.  Watkins ran onto Leon’s pass and confidently lifted the ball over Dúbravka’s right leg and into the net.  He was so far ahead of the Magpies’ central defenders that it was not a surprise that the offside flag went up.  However, the replay showed the margin was only inches.  No goal! A goal at that point would have seen Villa Park rollicking with our Villans attacking the Holte End.  Against Crystal Palace in similar circumstances, our Villans had score three goals, the first in the 89th minute.  Unfortunately, the VAR disappointment put a damper on that potential.

Over the last ten minutes, Newcastle created more opportunities to add to their lead than our Villans did of reducing it.  The final whistle blew and, with it, our year-long unbeaten run at home.  Now our Villans will have to start a new one with Chelsea in the FA Cup and Manchester United in the Premier League, both at home, in a little over a week.

To say they need to play much better is an under-statement.

Aston Villa: Martínez, Cash, Konsa, Lenglet, Moreno, McGinn, Kamara (Ramsey 63′), Luiz, Tielemans (Zaniolo 63′), Diaby (Bailey 62′), Watkins.

Unused Subs: Olsen, Wright, Carlos, Chambers, Kesler Hayden, Iroegbunam.

Newcastle: Dúbravka, Trippier, Schär, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Guimarães, Miley (Livramento 75′), Murphy, Isak (Almirón 43′), Gordon (Krafth 99′).

Unused Subs: Karius, Dummett, Ritchie, Hall, White, Hernes.

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