Aston Villa got back to winning ways in the Premier League on Monday evening thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle at Villa Park.
Steve Bruce returned to Villa Park quietly confident that he could get one over on his former team, but Newcastle were poor and he would not have had much ground for complaint if his team returned north having conceded three or four goals.
Villa had most of the ball in the opening thirty minutes, but they were struggling to create clear cut chances as Newcastle were defending with everyone behind the ball. In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was still the international break and that Newcastle were San Marino or Andorra in disguise.
With 31 minutes on the clock, Jack Grealish won a free-kick on the edge of the box. A neat routine between Grealish and Conor Hourihane saw the latter curl the ball into the net.
Four minutes later, Grealish won another free-kick on the edge of the box. This time, Hourihane swung the ball in and Anwar El Ghazi was there to make it 2-0.
Villa dominated the second-half as well, but couldn’t add to their score. Ezri Konsa had a header well saved by Martin Dubravka and then Wesley hit the ball straight at Dubravka late on when it looked like it would have been easier to score.
Overall though, Newcastle offered very little and didn’t deserve to get anything out of the game.
Here are our Villa player ratings for Monday’s match:
GK: Tom Heaton - 7
Made a couple of fine saves to deny Newcastle a way back into the match.
RB: Frederic Guilbert - 7
Allan Saint-Maximin was Newcastle’s best player by a distance, but Guilbert did more than enough to stop him really hurting Villa.
CB: Tyrone Mings - 7
Commanded his defence well and rarely looked troubled throughout the game. Played some fantastic cross-field passes too.
CB: Ezri Konsa - 7
Came in for the injured Engels and looked at home playing alongside Mings. Had one or two hairy moments, but we can expect that from a youngster.
LB: Matt Targett - 7
Was rarely troubled in defence and put some delightful crosses into the box in the first-half.
RM: Anwar El Ghazi - 7.5
Caused the Newcastle defence all types of issues with his direct runs and was alert to stab home from three yards out to double Villa’s advantage.
CM: Douglas Luiz - 7
The midfielder in the team to break up the play and provide the defence with some extra cover and that is exactly what he did. He didn’t give any Newcastle attacking player a moment of peace.
CM: Conor Hourihane - 8.5
He opened the scoring after a neat routine with Grealish and his cross for the second goal was on the money. He caused issues all night with his set-piece deliveries.
CM: John McGinn - 6
Wasn’t the Scot’s best game, but he was probably tired from having to carry Scotland during the international break. He still gave his all and was always on hand to put pressure on the Newcastle midfield.
LM: Jack Grealish - 8.5
Grealish showed what Villa have been missing while he has been out injured. He ran the show in the midfield and was the one who was fouled for both free-kicks that led to the two goals. The Newcastle players could get nowhere near him at times and he was unlucky not to score.
ST: Wesley Moraes - 5
His hold up play was pretty solid, but his finishing was awful. How he missed from three yards out only he will know.
SUB: Henri Lansbury - N/A
Came on with just two minutes of injury time left.