Villa Report – Aston Villa 3 Newcastle 0
In a Word
Euphoria: ‘A feeling of extreme happiness or confidence.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
The Acid Test. The Moment of Reckoning. ‘They haven’t played anyone yet.’ The media narrative had been set. Yes, Unai Emery’s Aston Villa side had been on a great run, but Newcastle were coming to town, and now we would really see what they were made of. In a friend’s prediction league, 15 out of 17 people were predicting an away win. Disrespectful? We would soon find out.
The Holte End were in buoyant mood as the teams took to the field, with Emery forced into only one change, with Leander Dendoncker coming in to replace the injured Leon Bailey. The atmosphere was electric; could Villa get off to another fast start?
It could hardly have been faster. Within 30 seconds, Ollie Watkins had roasted Newcastle’s defence and found himself bearing down on goal in front of the Holte. Unusually, given current form, his shot did not find the net but rebounded off the foot of the post. But the story was beginning to take shape.
The gameplan was clear; fight, be first to everything, don’t let them breathe. Within 11 minutes, it had paid off. Watkins’ astute header back into the path of Jacob Ramsey lead to the midfield maestro thrashing a low rasper into the net. Cue bedlam. The intensity shown by the home side was incredible, and shortly afterwards it was nearly two, with the mesmeric Alex Moreno bypassing Kieran Tripper before finding Ramsey in front of goal. Unfortunately, his shot thudded against the crossbar, but Newcastle were rocking.
The visitors were clearly stunned by the pace of Villa’s play, with Emi Buendia, Douglas Luiz and Moreno dictating things. Moreno, in particular, was showing just why Emery currently prefers him to Lucas Digne on the left; at times the Spaniard was unplayable.
The only slight doubt at half time was whether we could keep this up. Surely Newcastle could not play as poorly in the second half. Surely Villa would run out of gas.
The lie was given to both arguments early in the second half. Watkins was proving too hot to handle for Newcastle’s usually assured defence (the best in the Premier League, let’s not forget), and sure enough, he had soon put Villa 2-0 up. Or had he? The spectre of VAR hangs over every goal these days, and so it proved, with a marginal offside decision denying Villa’s frontman. Limbs were reset in the Holte.
In a rare foray forward, Alexander Isak tested Emi Martinez in the Villa goal, but the Argentine was up to the task, tipping over the bar and rallying the claret & blue troops.
Any doubts about the offside decision affecting Villa’s confidence were soon dispelled as minutes later, Watkins put Villa 2-0, holding off the visiting defenders and pivoting to smash past Nick Pope. Again, Moreno had been instrumental in the set up play.
With the Geordie fans serenaded by the Holte End and told that now they had seen the Villa they could head back up the M6 (polite version), Villa continued to dominate. Captain John McGinn had been having his own version of a Royal Rumble with Dan Burn all day, which soon became too much for the beanpole defender as he was subbed off, having not been able to deal with the Scotsman’s strength and tenacity. Meatball is a spicy individual and Burn couldn’t handle the heat.
On 83 minutes, grown men were made to cry when Ollie Watkins swept home a third, cue euphoria around the ground, except for in the visitors section. 3-0 on your big day out? You’d better believe it.
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Rare times indeed. Villa were not only ripping up the media narrative, they were having it shredded. Meanwhile, Kieran Trippier was still spinning around on the hallowed turf trying to locate Alex Moreno.
As the final whistle blew, Villa fans were in raptures, having witnessed something very, very special. Its been a long time since we have dominated one of the wannabe Champions League sides like this.
From the world’s best goalkeeper to the rock solid central defensive pairing and their superb full backs, to the all-controlling midfield and the razor sharp Watkins up top, make no mistake, this wasn’t a beating, this was a fulminating, hypnotic, destructive tornado.
No player in a claret & blue shirt dipped in their performance levels throughout the game. Special mention must go to Dendoncker, who stepped into midfield and gave an assured performance. Emi Buendia again showed why he is the club’s record signing. Ramsey looked a threat all day.
The Unai Emery Express departs Birmingham on Saturday for West London, to take on old foes Brentford. Rumour has it that the mercurial Spanish manager was working on the tactics for that game shortly after Watkins made it 3-0.
The target is now clear. European football is within our reach.
I wouldn’t bet against us.
Value rating: £50 (out of £35)