Aston Villa strengthened their European credentials with a 3-0 win over Newcastle United that saw red hot Ollie Watkins continue his remarkable goalscoring form. With Gareth Southgate in attendance at Villa Park, Watkins had one goal ruled out for offside before scoring a brace that wrapped up all three points for Unai Emery’s side.
That’s five goals in his last four for Watkins, and 11 in his last 12 for the England forward that had only three to his name before the World Cup. No eyebrows were raised when he was omitted from the Three Lions 26-man contingent that travelled to Qatar yet now he is knocking on Southgate’s door ahead of the next internationals this summer.
Huge credit must be given to Emery, who has transformed Villa since their slump at the start of the season under Steven Gerrard. Up against a tricky Newcastle outfit, they dominated from the first minute and limited the Champions League hopefuls to just a handful of opportunities.
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Building this side to provide Watkins with multiple opportunities per match has so far worked wonders for Emery. He started here with a bang and could have scored after 28 seconds, as he got in behind the sluggish Newcastle defence only to see his early effort come back off the post.
If that was an early warning sign, Newcastle failed to heed it. Watkins was on a one man tormenting mission with his pace, movement and strength causing issues all game for Eddie Howe’s back line. He’s now scored 12 since the World Cup break, more than any other striker in the Premier League, barring Erling Haaland - who is also level with him on 12.
He was also instrumental in the goal he didn’t score - the opener. He climbed highest as a cross was floated towards the back post, and instead of going for goal, had the awareness to nod the ball back to Jacob Ramsey who fired it low past Nick Pope into the back of the net.
In this sort of form, few would have blamed the 27-year-old for going for goal, but his chance of finding the net was small and instead he produced a magical assist. They could have made it two as Ramsey crashed an effort off the bar from close range as Villa tore Newcastle apart at every opportunity in the first 15 minutes.
Villa kept control of the game, able to dominate in midfield throughout - while Howe's move to bring on Callum Wilson alongside Alexander Isak, as he did successfully last weekend, failed to pay off. Going to a 4-4-2 just provided more space for Emi Buendia between the lines and he, along with others, were able to pull the visitors apart.
Watkins was denied Villa’s second by a matter of inches as he was ruled offside by VAR having put the ball in the net. But minutes later, Aston Villa did score and Watkins did get his fourth in a row. Left-back Alex aMoreno cut the ball back for him in the box and he fired one through the legs of Dan Burn on the turn and into the back of the net.
He’s full of confidence right now and everything he touches seems to turn to goals. He proved it when the game was out of reach by adding his second of the night when John
McGinn fed Buendia in the box and he pulled it back to Watkins who once again found the back of the net via a deflection from Kieran Trippier.
No Premier League striker has scored more goals than Ollie Watkins since the international break. He, and Aston Villa, are up to 6th in the Premier League.
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