Aston Villa 2 Newcastle United 0
- Simon Hooper
First half goals from Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore handed Aston Villa victory over Newcastle United on Saturday night.
Watkins headed home a Matt Targett cross early on at Villa Park, before Traore thumped home a second from Jack Grealish’s cutback to leave Steve Bruce’s charges with it all to do.
They couldn’t muster a response against eighth-placed Villa, meaning United head into Tuesday night’s home game against Leeds hoping for a first Premier League victory since the turn of the year.
Villa fired an early warning through Targett, with the full back’s well-struck effort from distance calling Karl Darlow into action early on. The former Southampton man then looked to pick out Watkins with a low cross which didn’t quite come off, but before quarter of an hour had been played the pair combined to give Dean Smith’s men the lead.
The influential Grealish combined with Targett down the left and his early cross was aimed at Watkins in the box. Fabian Schär, back in the United line-up, didn’t get enough on it, and Watkins was able to nod home beyond Darlow.
It was a slow start from the Magpies and, after Ross Barkley had headed a free kick wide of the target, the hosts seemed to settle into a rhythm. Andy Carroll, up front alongside leading scorer Callum Wilson, glanced a Javier Manquillo cross wide of the post, but it was as close as the Magpies got in the first half.
Watkins, meanwhile, looked a threat at the other end, and had the ball in the net after the half hour, but United were saved by the offside flag. Just before the break, they had no such fortune, though, as Grealish’s cutback was met by Traore, whose emphatic finish - which clipped the underside of the bar on its way in - gave the hosts a 2-0 lead at the break.
Soon after the restart, Watkins almost snatched his second, but his low strike was kept out by Darlow. United didn’t deal with the rebound, though, and the ball fell kindly for midfielder Douglas Luiz, but the Brazilian pulled his shot wide of the target and the chance was gone.
There was little in the way of opportunities after that, as the pattern of the game saw Villa control much of the ball and the Magpies seek the goal which would have brought them back into the contest. But it wasn’t forthcoming, and at the other end, both Grealish and Barkley wasted good positions when Smith’s men got into some promising areas.
The high point of the evening for Newcastle was the long-awaited return of winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who was introduced from the bench with 20 minutes remaining after recovering from COVID-19. Fellow attackers Ryan Fraser and Dwight Gayle were also summoned for the closing stages, but United were unable to haul themselves back into the game. Villa almost stole a third at the death, but Darlow made a full-stretch save from Trezeguet as Bruce’s side were left still searching for their first win of 2021.