Newcastle underlined their European football credentials on Saturday with an impressive 4-0 victory over Aston Villa at St. James’ Park.
It was a stop-start first half, with lengthy stoppages required due to an injury to Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who went down unchallenged shortly after catching a cross and had to be replaced by Robin Olsen.
Olsen made a fantastic save shortly before half-time, but it was all for nought as moments later Newcastle were awarded a penalty when Ashley Young blocked Miguel Almiron’s shot with his hand.
Callum Wilson smashed the penalty down the middle, wrong-footing Olsen and giving the Magpies a 1-0 lead on the stroke of the half-time whistle.
The restart was heavily delayed due to the stoppage caused by the injury to Martinez, but Newcastle still managed to extend their league 10 minutes into the second half when Wilson got on the end of Kieran Trippier’s cross and headed home at the back post.
Moments later it was 3-0, Joelinton pouncing on a rebound to score for the first time since April after Olsen saved from Almiron.
Next on the scoresheet was the in-form Almiron, who swept home a stunning strike from 25 yards to score his seventh goal of the season and give Jack Grealish nightmares for weeks to come.
It was a complete performance in all areas of the pitch from Newcastle, who looked throughly impressive and hardly gave Aston Villa a sniff throughout.
With Eddie Howe’s side fourth in the Premier League table, it might be time to start asking whether this Newcastle team can stake a serious claim for Champions League football before the season is out.
For Villa, it was a chastening reminder of why they are currently sitting at the wrong end of the Premier League table.
Caretaker manager Aaron Danks led the Villans to an impressive 4-0 win over Brentford last weekend, but today’s result underlined the need for incoming new boss Unai Emery to work his magic with this disaffected group of players.