Aston Villa showed Steve Bruce what he's missing at Newcastle United
Steve Bruce labelled his last game as Aston Villa manager as “unsavoury” – and his return to Villa Park with Newcastle United wasn’t any sweeter.
Bruce’s side was deservedly beaten 2-0 tonight, and how he could do with a player like Jack Grealish, who was outstanding for the home team.
United’s head coach wants a midfielder or a No10 who can get about the pitch in January’s transfer window, and Grealish covered every blade of grass. He also won the two free-kicks which led to Villa’s goals.
Bruce’s side were sloppy defensively, and that’s something they can afford to be on Saturday when Manchester City visit St James's Park. Bruce, it’s clear, has a lot of thinking to do before then.
With Jamaal Lascelles sidelined with an injury, Bruce had recalled Paul Dummett to his starting XI and handed the skipper’s armband to Jonjo Shelvey. The match, however, was to largely pass Shelvey by.
Villa took the game to Newcastle, who strung players across the pitch and looked to hit their hosts on the counter-attack with the pace of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin.
United had an early let-off when Matt Targett delivered a ball across the face of Martin Dubravka’s goal. Villa dominated the first 20 minutes. They kept on coming. Martin Dubravka tipped over a shot from Douglas Luiz before Villa got their breakthrough.
DeAndre Yedlin pushed Grealish in the back on the edge of the box, and Conor Hourihane curled the ball around the wall from the resulting free-kick to give the home side a 32nd-minute lead.
It got worse. Grealish was everywhere, and Federico Fernandez tripped him on the edge of the box four minutes later. Hourihane’s free-kick was bundled home by Anwar El Ghazi.
Newcastle were better after the break, and Bruce sent on Carroll – and switched to a back four – after the hour-mark.
United, however, weren’t able to get themselves back into the game.
And Newcastle’s fans were left to chant “how s*** must you be, we’re higher than you” at Villa’s supporters.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka; Yedlin, Fernandez, Dummett (Carroll, 63), Clark, Willems; Almiron (Atsu, 79), Shelvey, Hayden, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton (Gayle, 72). Subs not used: Darlow, Schar, Krafth, M Longstaff.