Aston Villa moved above Chelsea and Southampton into eighth in the Premier League with a win over Newcastle which increased the pressure on manager Steve Bruce.
Despite playing a more positive 5-3-2 formation, the visitors were undone by a Villa team whose manager Dean Smith watched from the stands following his touchline ban.
His impressive outfit still showed the quick attacking interplay which has been a feature of their season as Ollie Watkins ended a run of nine league games without a goal when he headed in the opener following Fabian Schar’s mistake.
Newcastle, who have scored only once in their past eight games, lacked the sort of confidence in front of goal that Villa showed in doubling their lead.
Bertrand Traore played a one-two with Jack Grealish before cannoning a shot in off the crossbar.
There were opportunities for Bruce’s side, who introduced Allan Saint-Maximin – after a long coronavirus absence – and Ryan Fraser for the final 19 minutes.
But they did not trouble a Villa team who are now five points off fourth-placed Liverpool with two games in hand.
Defeat for Newcastle meant they are winless in 10 games and slip to 16th, seven points above the relegation zone.
Newcastle offer better balance but same result
Newcastle fans, who have been critical of Bruce’s style, might point to Villa as a team who can play positive attacking football with similar resources.
The fact Villa have enjoyed an upward curve since Bruce left the club in 2018 will not be lost on them, and even though the Newcastle manager was right to say prior to this game that Smith has enjoyed the benefits of last summer’s investment in players, Villa have been a joy to watch this season.
In contrast, Newcastle, who started the season positively, have been in a rut. Debate about Bruce’s formations have been rife on Tyneside and his position came under further discussion on Saturday after former Magpies manager Rafael Benitez left his job in China.
But in picking a 5-3-2 formation, it did seem to offer a better balance. Jonjo Shelvey, Miguel Almiron and the deeper Jeff Hendrick made up the midfield, allowing Andy Carroll to support Callum Wilson up front.
For much of the first half it looked promising. But when getting into good positions, Newcastle were let down by poor crossing or finishing, with Carroll wasting two good opportunities.
Their dwindling confidence was not helped by Schar’s error when he failed to clear Matt Targett’s first-time cross, allowing Watkins to nod past a flapping Karl Darlow.
Traore’s finish put a comfortable distance between the two sides and Newcastle never looked like breaking through.
There was a brief lift once Saint-Maximin and Fraser came on with the latter almost getting on the end of Almiron’s through ball, but it was another dismal night for Bruce, who has plenty to ponder as he attempts to arrest a worrying slide towards the bottom three.
More to follow.
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Rate players out of 10 throughout or after the game. The rater will close 30 minutes after the final whistle.
Rating range key = Give it up = Pure perfection
- 6Douglas Luiz
- 15TraoréSubstituted forTrézéguetat 80′minutes
- 20BarkleySubstituted forEl Ghaziat 80′minutes
- 10GrealishSubstituted forRamseyat 88′minutes
- 21El Ghazi
- 27El Mohamady
- 19ManquilloSubstituted forSaint-Maximinat 71′minutes
- 6LascellesBooked at 57mins
- 5SchärBooked at 26mins
- 24AlmirónSubstituted forGayleat 81′minutes
- 7CarrollBooked at 54minsSubstituted forFraserat 71′minutes
- 4M Longstaff
Match ends, Aston Villa 2, Newcastle United 0.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 2, Newcastle United 0.
Attempt saved. Trézéguet (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Karl Darlow.
Attempt missed. Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jeff Hendrick following a corner.
Attempt missed. Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left following a corner.
Corner, Newcastle United. Conceded by Tyrone Mings.
Foul by Trézéguet (Aston Villa).
Jamal Lewis (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Trézéguet (Aston Villa).
Fabian Schär (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa).
Isaac Hayden (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Jacob Ramsey replaces Jack Grealish.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Fabian Schär (Newcastle United).
Attempt missed. Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jack Grealish with a cross following a set piece situation.
Trézéguet (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United).
Substitution, Newcastle United. Dwight Gayle replaces Miguel Almirón.