All Good Things Must Come To An End. Villa 1-3 Newcastle.

Villa Park Newcastle

Well, Villa’s remarkable unbeaten home streak at home simply had to come to an end at some point. It was written in the stars, or Villa Park’s firework light-show perhaps, that it would against a Newcastle side with the worst away form in the division. How typically Villa.

On what was a freezing evening in B6, this Villa side struggled to get going. Indeed, it was the kind of performance we’d seen in phases in recent weeks. At times it was pedestrian, some looked leggy and there are one or two who are certainly struggling for form and confidence.

By contrast, Newcastle were adventurous and took advantage of the space afforded to them. There were also obvious comparisons to the opening day 5-1 drubbing, with the visitors causing us no end of problems with a diagonal ball. There was a growing sense of inevitability as the opening exchanges took place.

There were a couple of near misses even before we went behind, with Martinez called into action as a sweeper come keeper for not the first time this season. The opener was a poor goal to concede though, with Schar toeing home a straightforward ball in from a corner. Schar was on the scoresheet just minutes later, finishing a Gordon shot that had deflected wickedly onto the bar. 2-0 in the blink of an eye.

Aston Villa 1-3 Newcastle United

Villa had been rocking and Newcastle’s game plan was working well, and with nobody capable of containing Gordon, there was always a lingering threat. Moreno was out of sorts, and Konsa was seemingly forever in a state of recovery. Lenglet, who made two excellent tackles in the fixture, equally just does not instil a sense of calm in the defence. Cash struggled badly too and the likely arrival of Lino Sousa (19) from Arsenal tells its own story.

It wasn’t all a defensive struggle though, with Villa’s midfield played through and the partnership of Diaby and Watkins largely spectators.

The second half was just 7 minutes old when the match was ultimately settled. An error of judgement from Cash saw Gordon break, before his cross was inadvertently bundled in off Moreno. 3-0 was a tall order to overcome.

The arrival of Leon Bailey shook things up, and immediately injected some life into what could have been an otherwise thumb-twiddling 40-minute sit in the cold. Bailey’s impact, contrasting ominously to Diaby whom he replaced, reaped immediate reward with Watkins pulling a goal back.

With the adrenaline pumping, there was a momentary suggestion of a remarkable final 20 minutes as Bailey again fed Watkins through to score. Alas, the goal was ruled out for offside by VAR. And with that, despite a few headless moments of madness from Zaniolo charging around the pitch, that was that.

It was, I suppose, a timid way to give up the home streak and one that privately Emery might feel much annoyance about. It was much about individual errors, collective performance and perhaps a lack of alternative options across the game that settled it. Newcastle’s game plan was effective, but this was something we encountered on the opening day & the team selection up-front was obviously ill-fitted to compete with the physicality of the likes of Burns.

Up next, a Saturday evening trip to strugglers Sheffield United.

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