Aston Villa 3 – 0 Newcastle United. Ollie Watkins continued his prolific form with two goals as Aston Villa boosted their European hopes with an emphatic victory over Newcastle, whose five-match winning run came to a shuddering halt at Villa Park.
Watkins had already struck the foot of the post, forced two fine saves out of Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope and had an effort ruled out for offside by the time he gave Villa a two-goal cushion midway through the second half.
The former Brentford striker completed a one-sided victory with eight minutes remaining, converting a low shot via a slight deflection off Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier.
Unai Emery’s team dominated the early stages and took a deserved lead when Jacob Ramsey swept Watkins’ cushioned header low into the net.
Watkins almost scored inside 30 seconds when he struck the foot of the post after shrugging off Sven Botman’s challenge.
Ramsey struck the crossbar in a one-sided opening, before Pope kept out another Watkins effort early in the second half.
Alexander Isak had a shot parried over the bar by Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez as Newcastle improved after the restart, but Watkins gave the home side breathing space with a close-range finish before completing the scoring late on.
Villa, who have won five straight Premier League games for the first time since 1998, are now only six points off third-placed Newcastle having played one game more.
Manchester United will leapfrog Newcastle into third if they avoid defeat at Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Emery’s decision to reject Newcastle’s advances following the Saudi-led takeover appears to have benefited all parties, with Villa mounting a late surge for Europe and Eddie Howe’s team still firmly in the top-four mix.
But this was very much Villa’s afternoon as they inflicted a heaviest defeat of the campaign on Newcastle thanks to a masterful display.
Villa have now won 12 of their 18 matches under Emery and only leaders Arsenal and champions Manchester City can match their tally of 38 points during that period.
Villa could have been 3-0 ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour but were twice denied by the frame of the goal, while Watkins also drew a five save from Pope not long after Ramsey’s opener.
After being denied by the England keeper yet again three minutes into the second half, Watkins thought he had finally made the scoresheet on the hour-mark when he was ruled narrowly offside by the video assistant referee.
With England manager Gareth Southgate watching on in the stands, 27-year-old Watkins added gloss to a perfect Villa performance with two clinical second-half finishes, lifting his league tally for the season to 15.
Remarkably, eleven of those goals have come in his past 12 top-flight appearances.
Regardless of whether they achieve Champions League qualification, Newcastle have had a magnificent campaign, but they were comfortably second best here.
They recovered from a slow start at Brentford last weekend to claim a fifth league win in succession, but they rarely threatened to get back in the game after Ramsey’s opener and could have lost by a much bigger margin.
They struggled to cope with the pace of the sensational Watkins, who was making darting runs between Trippier and Fabian Schar at every opportunity.
Callum Wilson and the fit-again Miguel Almiron were brought on 11 minutes into the second half, but they had little impact as Villa continued to create the better openings.
Wilson almost got on the end of a teasing Isak cross but was narrowly offside in any case, while Almiron struck the side-netting from a tight angle on his first appearance since mid-March.
Newcastle will need to produce a vastly improved performance when fellow Champions League aspirants Tottenham visit St James’ Park on 23 April.
source – news365coza