Newcastle was one of the matches Aston Villa had circled as an opportunity to take points in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
Dean Smith made a pair of changes for the midweek match — Samatta and Trezeguet in for Hourihane and Davis. The move pushed Jack into the middle — the joy of most of Villa Twitter prematch.
Trezeguet had the first chance of the match from a beautiful Konsa cross. It was reminiscent of the Luiz cross leading to the Hause goal — but the Egyptian winger hit it into the ground and it went over the net. A disappointing outcome to a positive play.
Early on Villa held onto the ball well with Newcastle happy to let them have it. McGinn showed some nice dribbling ability to get a long distance shot off. Samatta got his head to an El Ghazi cross but it went wide. But the first 15 minutes ended with Villa on top but no goals to show for it.
The next 15 were much of the same. Targett with a long range effort — off target. El Ghazi couldn’t control a ball over the top into the box. But Newcastle had zero opportunities before the 37’. Dean Smith made it clear during the break that the first thing Villa had to do was tighten up at the back. In the 38’, Mings was spot on with his defending to stop the first decent Newcastle attack caused by a Hause mistake.
Near the end of the half — Douglas Luiz picked up a yellow card after a VAR review. Seemed like nothing to me and to the announcers. But the card was shown anyway.
The second half started with another Villa half chance. Trezeguet tried a diving header from very far out. He had plenty of space to take it down but he went for the spectacular. On the other hand, Luiz continued to do the dirty work to help stifle Newcastle.
Just short of the hour mark — Newcastle began to create chances as the game opened up.
Lascelles picked up a yellow after yet another foul on Jack Grealish. But Villa couldn’t quite put things together to take advantage.
First sub was made by Steve Bruce Joelinton out, Carroll in the 63 minute. A minute later — but a separate sub — Richie couldn’t continue so Gayle came on. Only one time left to sub for Newcastle — though three could be made.
(Scoreboard watch — Norwich and Bournemouth losing)
The two subs made an immediate impact. Carroll controlled a throw in. Crossed it Dwight Gayle who was totally unmarked. Gayle slotted it home. 1-0. Just terrible, terrible defending.
THEN Dean Smith made subs. Davis and Hourihane on for El Ghazi and Trezeguet off. The sub could have should have been made 5/10 minutes before.
With 14 minutes to go, Elmo on for Konsa and Nakamba on for McGinn.
Villa began to push up the field. Grealish found the ball much more often in an an attacking role.
But in the end it was a corner. Yes an Aston Villa corner. 83’ a Hourihane free kick was attacked by an unlikely hero... right back Ahmed Elmohamady. Elmo got a slight touch to it and it somehow slipped by the Newcastle keeper. 1-1. Villa players grabbed the ball and demanded the match continue on.
Five minutes were added on to the 90’.
Samatta had a shot from distance but he totally got the strike wrong. On the other end, Shelvey did the exact same thing. Villa had a pair of corners — the second was taken short but the cross was easily caught.
Davis earned a free kick with thirty seconds left. Hourihane stepped up and proceeded to deliver a terrible low cross. The final whistle blew and Aston Villa earned a single point. Yet again the finishing was a let down and one giant defensive mistake cost Villa.
(Scoreboard watch — Bournemouth and Norwich both lost 1-0, meaning Villa sit 19th still but now tied on points with West Ham and Bournemouth with a worse goal difference.)
There are positives — Luiz being chief among them. Villa were the better team. There are negatives — dumb defensive mistake and using subs re-actively instead of proactively. But the season is not over. Villa are not down yet — but the road ahead is tough.
Up the Villa.