Report & Ratings: Villa 2-0 Newcastle – Vital 3 points against poor Bruce side

Whilst the mood at Villa Park has been upbeat after a number of competitive performances, ultimately it’s points that keep you in the Premier League.

Indeed, it was the elephant in the room that after defeats to Man City, Liverpool and Wolves, we were suddenly nervously looking over our shoulders.

To compound matters, a victory for Norwich in the weekends games underlined the need to beat Newcastle at Villa Park.  17th being uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.

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This was Steve Bruce’s first game at Villa Park since his sacking in October 2018.  There was no need for cabbages this time around though.

Bruce lost his way badly whilst manager at Aston Villa and works endlessly to shake of a perception (justified in this blogs view) of out-dated, repugnant football.

However, if you needed a better example of the stagnant style Villa fans often endured, then you need look no further than this Newcastle display.

Villa, without question, did also play well.

Grealish, Guilbert, McGinn and Hourihane caught the eye particularly.

However, make no mistake, this was also a dreadful display from a visiting team.  So bad, it was labelled “an alarming Newcastle United performance” in The Telegraph’s report.

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Newcastle’s ineptitude provided Villa with the impetus to quickly seize control of proceedings.

McGinn and Hourihane combined effectively, with the latter showing that perhaps his development curve might not yet have peaked.  The Irish international contributed towards a number of neat exchanges and was rewarded with a superbly worked free-kick to open the scoring.

El Ghazi and Grealish’s movement routinely caused havoc too.

Whilst El Ghazi can definitely be inconsistent, he gives us flair and a directness when on-song.  His good positioning and sharp finish bagged the second of the night.  The former Ajax man has all of the ability at his disposal, but Smith must despair at how unpredictable the Dutchman can often be despite it.

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Grealish undoubtedly stole the show, delivering a classy display of ghosting movement, turn of pace and relentless threat to the opposition.  It was perhaps no surprise that Villa’s collective quality rose following his return from a month long calf injury.

Simply put: Jack Grealish was influential, dominant and instrumental in this victory.

That was despite a number of cynical fouls, including an unsavoury stamp in the second half.  Gone are the days of Grealish throwing himself to the ground, he’s grown up.  What we are witnessing is a recurring targeting of our most important player, sometimes recklessly.  Officials need to deal with this much earlier rather than allow persistent fouls like he suffered to go unpunished.

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The defence played an important role too.

Heaton is the cool and competent keeper we’ve been crying out for years.  A smart save in the first half was backed up with a number of well dealt with, albeit straightforward blocks.  Mings was overshadowed by his partner at centre half Esri Konsa, who caught the eye by his presence alone.  The previously unknown summer buy from Brentford looks an absolute steal on this showing.

Honourable mention too for Targett, vomiting one minute and galloping down the line the next.  Guilbert impressed also, with more than one important tackle and rarely putting a foot wrong.  The Frenchman is a likeable, very capable figure at right-back.

Wesley will be dissapointed not to have on the scoresheet, hitting the goalkeeper from six yards out when well placed to score from a squared ball.  However, the new Brazilian international was lively and involved all evening.

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Overall, this was an excellent victory, as much for its timing as for its points value.

With three away games in the next four, against strong sides like United, Chelsea, Leicester and Sheffield United, it takes a little pressure off.

With that said, it can also serve to re-focus the squad.  Manchester United aren’t firing on all cylinders and Sheffield United are a team we are familiar with.  Chelsea and Leicester do present decidedly sterner fixtures to be navigated.

Importantly we played well, took our chances and can hopefully use the result as a springboard into the challenges that December will bring.

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Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle Utd
  • Tom Heaton
  • Matt Targett
  • Frederic Guilbert
  • Tyrone Mings
  • Esri Konsa
  • Anwar El Ghazi
  • Conor Hourihane
  • John McGinn
  • Douglas Luis
  • Jack Grealish
  • Wesley
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