Conor Hourihane took the spotlight against Newcastle United this evening with a goal and assist.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to Villa Park post-international break for a Monday night game under the lights against former manager Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United.
Both sides enjoyed chances in the first four minutes, with Aston Villa dominating the ball and committing bodies high up the pitch and Newcastle United willing to break on the counter-attack.
There was a slight worry for Aston Villa shortly after as a tough challenge from Joelinton left Jack Grealish holding his leg on the floor. He had come into this game the most fouled player in the Premier League, and the trend continued here. There were moments following this where Jack was visibly limping.
Aston Villa had their first real taste of what Newcastle could offer on the counter-attack following a corner that saw Allan Saint-Maximin rush into the final third, only for Miguel Almiron to stumble on the ball and concede possession.
Douglas Luiz forced Dubravka into a great save in the 28th minute as he bent a shot from outside of the box towards goal, which the Newcastle stopper had to tip over the bar.
Conor Hourihane was, as it would always have been written, the man to break the deadlock against a manager who at times froze the midfielder out. Jack Grealish had won a free-kick on the edge of the area as DeAndre Yedlin pushed the midfielder to the floor. The resulting free-kick was stopped dead by Jack as Conor played it to him, before the Irish midfielder swung the ball over the wall and into the back of the net past a rooted Dubravka.
Conor turned provider in the 36th minute as he whipped in a free-kick (won once again by Jack Grealish) into a central position which Anwar El Ghazi tapped home to double the lead.
Fernandez forced Tom Heaton into a reflexed save as he headed on goal from a corner in the 43rd.
The sides went in with Aston Villa leading at half-time.
Allan Saint-Maximin looked fired up in the second half, forcing Tom Heaton into two saves within the first minute or so.
Steve Bruce’s team talk looked to have worked – with Aston Villa defending deeper than they would have liked and Newcastle attacking with more urgency in the opening six minutes of the second half.
Ezri Konsa forced Dubravka into a strong save as a Conor Hourihane’s corner found the defender unmarked near the penalty spot. The header was directly at the keeper, who needed to get down low to stop a third goal.
Villa piled on the pressure from here on out, with a prolonged period of possession and set-pieces.
Newcastle’s Paul Dummett was replaced by Andy Carroll in the 62nd minute.
And the Geordie forward almost scored an outrageous goal just six minutes later as he chested the ball down onto a volley which was straight at Tom Heaton.
Dwight Gayle was brought on to the pitch, replacing Joelinton, in the 71st minute.
John McGinn forced Dubravka into a fairly easy save after some intricate work from Jack Grealish on the edge of the box in the 76th. Just a few seconds later, Wesley nearly netted Aston Villa’s third as Hourihane squared a ball across the box for the Brazilian, but his shot was directly at Dubravka.
Wesley was booked in the 80th minute for a late kick on Jetro Willems.
In the 90th, Conor Hourihane was subbed off to a standing ovation and was replaced by Henri Lansbury.
McGinn had a duo of chances just before full-time where he should have probably played either Wesley or Guilbert in, but took shots on goal on both occasions.
Overall, a strong win against a staunch Newcastle side.