Aston Villa 1-3 Newcastle (Watkins 71′ | Schar 32′, 36′, Moreno 52′ OG)
VILLA PARK — It certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Fabian Schar had attempted 73 shots on goal in the 18 months since his previous Premier League strike before two goals flew in from two efforts in the space of four first-half minutes to stun Aston Villa.
Newcastle United’s unlikely goal-scorer keeping Eddie Howe’s side in with an unlikely shot at top four and successive seasons qualifying for the Champions League, leaving Aston Villa manager Unai Emery with a job on his hands to calm twitchy form that could soon see them vacate fourth.
They were fine two goals, too, the centre-back scoring with strikes worthy of any seasoned forward. And it’s probably just as well after Alexander Isak limped off in the first half leaving Newcastle with no fit strikers and little time – nor resources – remaining to do business in the transfer window.
Schar’s first was a volley direct from Kieran Trippier’s corner, although how he was afforded so much freedom to score in such a way on the edge of Villa’s six-yard box did not reflect well on the home side’s defending.
Trippier swung in the delivery and it was allowed to drop almost to the turf before Schar’s boot swept it into the right of Emiliano Martinez’s goal.
Ezri Konsa appeared to be the player responsible for letting Schar go, but there were a few heated words shared between Villa’s players while Newcastle celebrated.
It was a deserved lead for Newcastle, so poor on their travels this season but playing so well at Villa Park before they took the lead. And they added to it on 36 minutes.
Another Trippier corner, this one was actually cleared by Villa but from the edge of the penalty area Anthony Gordon struck another fine volley that was deflected onto the underside of the crossbar. Martinez, who had leapt to make a save, was on the floor and poacher Schar had stayed onside and knocked the rebound past him.
Gordon was another bright spark in a sparkling Newcastle show. One moment dancing around a few Villa players inside the penalty area before seeing a low shot blocked by Martinez. The next, cutting inside and having another effort deflected over.
It was his driving dribble through the middle to the edge of Villa’s area that launched Newcastle’s third goal, soon after the break.
Gordon played Miguel Almiron, who had come on for Isak, down the left, and his low cross found Jacob Murphy at the back post. Murphy mucked up his shot but it was turned in by Alex Moreno anyway – the Villa player not only scoring an own goal but colliding painfully with the post due to his efforts to get back.
Player of the match: Fabian Schar
- two excellent, unexpected goals from the defender won what should have been a tougher game for Newcastle.
Villa Park had seemed strangely tense and nervous even before the first goal, the loud Newcastle travelling contingent chanting teasingly about libraries and silence, and the Villa fans being not very good (they used some spicier descriptions).
The tension was unusual because Newcastle had been on a run of four straight Premier League defeats and had won only once away from home in the league all season, making the nature of the victory even more surprising.
Villa did manage to pull one back via a swift, direct move with 20 minutes remaining. Leon Bailey ran onto a ball over the top and whipped the ball across and Ollie Watkins did well to turn it past Martin Dubravka.
An unlikely comeback hung momentarily in the balance when Watkins scored again 90 seconds later before VAR confirmed what most people were thinking: that the goal was offside.
Still, with defenders scoring doubles and Newcastle winning comfortably away from home, unlikelier things had happened that evening.