Schar brace helpd Newcastle defeat Aston Villa

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Fabian Schar scored twice as Newcastle ended a run of four consecutive Premier League defeats with a tenacious victory at Aston Villa.

Switzerland’s defender Schar clinically converted close-range opportunities for both goals, as Aston Villa stumbled to their initial home league loss of the season.

A self-goal by Alex Moreno extended Newcastle’s lead to three before Ollie Watkins narrowed the gap with a goal. Despite Watkins finding the net for a potential second time, the goal was disallowed for offside.

Villa missed a chance to close in on Premier League leaders Liverpool and currently occupy the fourth spot, trailing the Reds by five points with an additional game played.

Newcastle, now in seventh place, is still 11 points behind Villa in the race for a spot in the next season’s Champions League.

Schar’s spirit reignites Howe’s side

The Magpies exhibited a more stylish performance against a Villa team that had amassed 28 points out of a possible 30 at home before this match, and they rightfully emerged as the winners.

Anthony Gordon, in particular, led their offensive efforts with cunning and flair, consistently outsmarting the Villa defense with his agile movement and tricks. Similarly, Alexander Isak posed a threat in attack before being forced to leave the game prematurely in the first half due to injury.

Eddie Howe, however, would have been particularly satisfied with the solidity displayed by his team, in addition to the moments of impressive style, as they secured only their second away victory of the season.

Schar epitomized this approach: disciplined, tenacious, and well-organized in his defensive duties, never hesitating to make crucial blocks or face challenges head-on.

“It was mixed emotions for me because that team is an elite team,” Howe told TNT Sports.

“The mixed part is that we haven’t seen that for a number of weeks. We looked much like ourselves and we have players coming back.”

On the opposite side of the field, Schar demonstrated precision. Outmaneuvering Ezri Konsa, he confidently struck the ball into the net, initiating the scoring. Villa’s defensive lapses were evident when they failed to clear Kieran Trippier’s corner, leading to Schar capitalizing on the opportunity and putting Newcastle in the lead.

Schar’s second goal showcased pure opportunism. Remaining in the box after a corner, he seized the chance to score when Gordon’s deflected attempt rebounded off the underside of the crossbar, catching Emiliano Martinez off guard, and Schar swiftly directed the ball into the net.

“We know what we are capable of but we haven’t shown it enough,” Schar told BBC Match of the Day.

“Today we know we were going to have to be at our best. This should give us a lot of confidence and hopefully we can build on these last two results.”

The match lost its competitive edge just seven minutes into the second half when Moreno unintentionally directed Jacob Murphy’s low finish into the net.

Newcastle displayed revitalized energy and intensity following a temporary decline. If the initial signs of improvement were seen in a victory over Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round last weekend, there is now additional reason for optimism.

Villa title challenge hits buffers

In his native Spain, Unai Emery struggled to disrupt the La Liga dominance held by Barcelona and Real Madrid. Despite achieving three third-placed finishes with Valencia from 2009 to 2012, he fell short when pitted against the powerhouses of Spanish football.

Emery’s Villa team had initially seemed poised to challenge the Premier League trio of Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool this season.

Before this match, they boasted 13 wins and 43 points – their most impressive record after 21 top-flight fixtures in 125 years – and remained unbeaten at Villa Park.

However, the landscape has shifted following a defeat that left their players appearing fatigued.

“It is a little frustrating. The first 60 minutes, they were better,” Emery told Match of the Day.

“We couldn’t take chances to draw but we have to accept and remind the players everything we did here was not perfect. We then have to correct what we did here.

“We have to be demanding that we can improve. We have to react tactically.”

Emery’s team has now experienced setbacks in four of their last five matches, and any hopes of a title challenge, which already seemed unlikely, seem to be fading rapidly.

Villa’s players looked fatigued and sluggish in this match. Emery’s reluctance to rotate, whether by choice or design, implies a lack of squad depth to sustain a competitive campaign.

The positive aspect is that Watkins has put an end to a goal drought of six appearances with a well-executed finish, marking his 50th goal in the Premier League. He narrowly missed a second goal as well.

Securing a place in the top four remains within Villa’s reach, along with opportunities in either the Europa League or the FA Cup. There’s still plenty at stake for them.