Newcastle United 1-0 Aston Villa: Kieran Trippier’s free-kick proves the difference again as the Magpies win a THIRD successive Premier League game and move four points clear of the relegation zone
- Newcastle United won a third league game in a row by beating Aston Villa 1-0
- Kieran Trippier’s first-half free-kick proved the difference at St. James’ Park
- Ollie Watkins had a close-range header in the second half ruled out for offside
- Newcastle are now four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone
Eddie Howe laughed during the week when asked about Newcastle having eyes on a top-half finish.
It remains wildly fanciful, of course, and within the context of the head coach’s remit this season, their current position of 17th would more than do.
But given the five-game form table has his side in the top four, Howe should be thinking about marching clear of the trapdoor, rather than keeping one foot pressed upon it.
Kieran Tripper gave Newcastle a first half lead with a 35th-minute free-kick at St. James’ Park
It was Trippier’s second goal in as many games after also scoring a free-kick against Everton
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Newcastle (4-3-3): Dubravka 6.5; Trippier 7 (Krafth 48, 6), Schar 7, Burn 8, Manquillo 6.5 (Dummett 45, 6.5); Joelinton 7.5, Shelvey 7, Willock 6.5 (Bruno 90); Saint-Maximin 7, Wood 6, Fraser 7
Subs not used: Darlow, De Bolle, Almiron, Murphy, Gayle, Longstaff
Manager: Eddie Howe 7
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Martinez 6; Cash 5.5, Chambers 5, Mings 5.5, Dignity 5; McGinn 5 (Chukwuemeka 85), Douglas Luiz 4.5, Ramsey 5; Buendia 5 (Bailey 72, 5), Watkins 5.5 (Ings 72, 5), Coutinho 5.5
Subs not used: Olsen, Sanson, Young, Hause, Chrisene, Iroegbunam
Manager: Steven Gerrard 5
Ref: C Pawson 6
They are now four points above 18th-placed Norwich and with a game to spare after this third straight victory, the first time Newcastle have achieved such a sequence since the days of the ever-popular Rafa Benitez in 2018.
It says much, however, that the recent availability of the Spaniard has barely warranted mention on Tyneside.
This is a team transformed under Howe, who joked on the eve of the game that a couple of wins had helped accelerate his North-East property search.
With his wife visiting from the South Coast and in the stands, the Howes might well be readying an offer after this, a gritty win owing everything to the work the manager has done since arriving in November.
Vicki was certainly left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling towards her husband from the home masses, who again chorused in rejoice of his ‘black and white army’.
Do not be fooled into thinking money has bought the turnaround, either. Yes, the magnificent January signing Kieran Trippier was the match-winner, but a group of players who were wanting for fitness, motivation and organization in the autumn are emerging from winter with a newfound glow.
‘We are in a good place,’ said Howe.
‘They have not been fluent, football performances – not what we want to do in the future.
‘But we have been very disciplined, hard-working and together. There is an energy and team spirit.’
Villa’s Ollie Watkins had a close-range header in the second half ruled out for offside by VAR
Eddie Howe continues to transform Newcastle; they are now four points above the drop zone
For Villa and Steven Gerrard, this was a fifth defeat in 10 to leave them just six points clear of Newcastle.
With the hosts losing Trippier and fellow full-back Javier Manquillo to injury within a few minutes of the second half, you anticipated a far more purposeful pursuit of parity than the one Villa mustered. Philippe Coutinho was subdued and their one shot on target tells their own sorry story.
The winning goal arrived in 35 minutes. There was a collective groan around St James’ when VAR instructed Craig Pawson to downgrade his award of a Newcastle penalty to a free-kick. It was the right call, Calum Chambers had chopped down Joe Willock the merest of licks beyond the paint.
But the groan morphed into a roar of anticipation at the sight of Trippier collecting the ball from spot-kick taker Chris Wood. Given the captain for the day whipped home his first for the club from a more difficult position in midweek, you wonder if the Expected Goals boffins even bothered to dial down the chances of a score.
There was no joy for Steven Gerrard; Aston Villa have now lost five of their last 10 matches
Newcastle have won three successive league matches for the first time since December 2018
It was too close to go over the wall – Villa also deployed a man denying a route beneath it – so Trippier went straight through it, and at pace, too. A nick off Emiliano Buendia helped in taking the ball beyond Emiliano Martinez, but it was a smart strike from a player who looks to be the smartest of signings. Howe can only hope his foot injury from him does not lead to a prolonged absence.
Without Trippier’s goal, a scrappy first half would have been better remembered for Gerrard’s touchline frustration. He saw red and turned the air blue after one corner from Douglas Luiz evaded all inside the area. He later grewled his annoyance when his side of him went back over rather than forward from a position of promise on halfway.
The visitors were slightly better after the break – they could not have been worse – and celebrated an equalizer on 61 minutes when Ollie Watkins turned in a close-range header, only for VAR to intervene and call offside. With the loss of that goal Villa faded and, come the end, Newcastle were worthy victors.
They played the Primal Scream hit Movin’ on Up on full-time. The title could well be applied to Mrs Howe and the family’s three boys after this latest triumph.