Aston Villa trounce Newcastle to close on Premier League top four
Aston Villa blew the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League wide open as Ollie Watkins scored twice in a convincing 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday.
Jacob Ramsey was also on target as sixth-placed Villa closed to within six points of Newcastle in third thanks to a seventh win in eight games.
The Magpies first defeat in six games means Tottenham can move level on points should they beat Bournemouth later on Saturday, ahead of a clash between the sides next weekend.
But Unai Emery’s men are the form side in the battle for a place in next season’s Champions League after taking 22 points from the last possible 24.
Just staying in the Premier League was Emery’s first task when he was appointed in October with Villa just one point above the relegation zone.
The former Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain boss has inspired an incredible turnaround and Newcastle never recovered from an explosive start by the home side at Villa Park.
Villa have scored in all 20 games under Emery and could have been three up inside 15 minutes.
Just 28 seconds were on the clock when the in-form Watkins sprinted behind the Newcastle defence and hit the inside of the post.
Watkins was the creator when Villa’s start did get the goal it deserved on 11 minutes.
The England international headed John McGinn’s cross back into the path of Ramsey to drill into the bottom corner.
Nick Pope was then forced into a big save to deny Watkins low to his left.
Newcastle had won their last five games to close in on a return to Champions League football after 20 years.
Eddie Howe’s men briefly threatened a revival once Callum Wilson was paired alongside Alexander Isak in attack.
Wilson forced Emi Martinez into a save with his first touch, albeit from an offside position, before Isak stung the palms of the Argentina number one.
However, the visitors greater attacking intent was also leaving Villa gaps to exploit on the counter-attack.
Watkins was denied his goal as a VAR check ruled him offside after finally getting the better of Pope.
But he had his 10th goal in 12 games 25 minutes from time as he spun onto Alex Moreno’s cross and left Pope with no chance.
No player has scored more than Watkins 12 Premier League goals since the World Cup. He pounced once more seven minutes from time after Ramsey turned Emi Buendia’s cross into his path.