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Match Reports

Newcastle 3 Aston Villa 3 – A performance that will have told Eddie Howe plenty, good and bad

7 months ago

Newcastle 3 Aston Villa 3 –  Sunday 23 July 2023 7pm (UK time 12 midnight)

Venue – Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Newcastle United and their opponents kept up the average, after Chelsea 4 Brighton 3 and Fulham 3 Brentford 2, this lively encounter served up another six goals.

Of the two managers I would think Eddie Howe will be the more satisfied than Unai Emery.

The NUFC Head Coach used the opportunity to experiment with a few things, whilst only one outfield player was on the pitch for more than a half, Targett doing 70 minutes and that allowing Barnes his 20 minutes cameo after only just meeting up with the squad.

In contrast, the Villa boss appeared to start with pretty much his best available starting eleven and then only three of the outfield players were replaced at half-time, seven playing for more than an hour. Indeed, five of the six Villa midfield and attack played 62+ minutes, McGinn the exception when replaced at half-time.

So I think you have to factor in all of the above if wanting to make any serious points about actually happened in the match.

The whole game was very open, even for a friendly. Almost as if it (as well as the previous two Summer Series matches) was tailored to help drive further the interest in the States for Premier League football, in a country that is used to sports with plenty of scoring.

When United went two down after 11 minutes it was no surprise to see some fans on social media, as well as certain members of the media, going into crisis mode.

Eddie Howe trying out a three / five man defence and it having teething troubles…

In reality, the two goals were largely down to human error. Tonali over eager to win the ball in midfield and ending up tumbling to the ground, allowing his opponent time and space to drive to the edge of the box and ultimately Watkins left with a simple finish as United were short of numbers at the back. Four minutes later it was a similar fast Villa attack and Buendia up against Trippier in the box, the England man did the right thing in making the Argentine attacker go on the outside and whilst it was a decent shot, I am amazed that pretty much nobody has mentioned how poor Dubravka was in allowing it to go in at his near post – schoolboy error.

Newcastle had actually started ok and Villa themselves looked vulnerable as they tried to keep a high line, at the very start with the game goalless, Isak was played in on goal unmarked with a ball over the top. However, what looked a dodgy call from the match officials (it wouldn’t be the last one…) saw offside called, when for me our Swedish striker looked on. Then in this made opening period, whilst Villa were clinical with their finishing, Almiron was put in down the right and he unselfishly instead of shooting squared it for his teammate (Ritchie?) to stroke the ball home from around nine yards out but instead totally miskicked with the goal at his mercy.

As I said earlier, Villa starting with pretty much their best available team, especially in midfield and in attack, so no surprise really that they had plenty of joy in that first half. In contrast, Eddie Howe trying stuff out and for example, Paul Dummett starting in that three man defence despite not given a single minute of Premier League football last season.

Also given a full half of football were the likes of Ritchie, Manquillo and Lewis Miley, none of that trio starting a single Premier League game last season. Whilst Lascelles only started two PL games last season, Dubravka just the one, Anderson had three PL starts, Gordon just the four.

So bottom line was Eddie Howe making sure the minutes were shared as much as possible, especially in a tight schedule of three matches in less than a week on this trip to the States.

One of the big positives last night was Elliot Anderson, the Geordie midfielder desperate for chances to show what he can do and doing himself plenty of favours. On 28 minutes a great Murphy ball over the top once again caught Villa out, Anderson taking the ball on and after putting a defender on his backside, produced an excellent low finish past Martinez.

Then in added time before the break, the high press paid dividends, Anderson dispossessing an opponent then driving into the box, going past his man and his left foot shot only parried by Martinez and defenders retreating to the line, falling for Isak to lash it home. A 2-2 draw pretty fair at half-time based on the 45+ minutes overall.

Eddie Howe with nine changes and maybe still sorting themselves out when Buendia then put Villa back in the lead on 48 minutes. Dubravka touching a shot onto the post and the ball cruelly falling perfectly for the Argentine player to be left with an open goal.

However, it was Newcastle United who were easily the better team in the second half. It was always going to be difficult / impossible for the usual NUFC high press to work against the first choice Villa side in the opening half, with the heat and humidity. I guess Eddie Howe doing this just to build up the fitness and resistance of the players to benefit them once back in normal Premier League conditions in England.

Anyway, as Villa’s first choice maybe tired in the conditions and then were replaced, Newcastle attacking time after time and causing problems, now the high press working a lot better against players who aren’t first choice for Villa.

Anthony Gordon looked sharp and excellent, he took a ball over the top down well and when Olsen in the Villa goal could only parry, Wilson on hand to coolly equalise. Newcastle very much on top and should have taken advantage, which for certain they would have done, if two very obvious penalties had been given between 56 and 59 minutes. A defender going through the back of Wilson in the box and yet somehow the local ref not seeing it as a penalty, the same three minutes later when Gordon was brought down in the penalty area.

Indeed, all through the game I thought Newcastle were generally getting a bad deal on decisions from the match officials. The big exception being that it took until the very final stages before he booked Joelinton, who was on a mission and had fouled pretty much every single person in Villa colours apart from Unai Emery.

Barnes almost won it late on when a trademark run inside from the left saw him shoot from the edge of the box across Olsen but he just put his effort too close to the Villa keeper.

Lewis Miley really looking the part, you would never guess he is only 17, great composure and quality in that second half.

I think the first half a case of missing all of Joelinton, Longstaff and Willock was a negative with their workrate, although Tonali clearly looks a real athlete and up for contributing in many ways, including covering yards.

Bruno had some nice touches and I am really looking forward to seeing him working alongside Tonali and Joelinton, plus others, when the real stuff starts in August.

I know a similar story for Villa no doubt but Newcastle’s international players only returned to the training ground nine days before this friendly in Philadelphia and the rest of the NUFC squad earlier that week.

A lot to like about the three pre-season friendlies so far, especially when with the all action high pressing style United favour, it is particularly difficult to get it working early in pre-season and especially in the heat and humidity experienced in this latest game.

Newcastle 3 Aston Villa 3 –  Sunday 23 July 2023 7pm (UK time 12 midnight)


Newcastle: Anderson 28, Isak 45+2, Wilson 55

Villa: Watkins 7, Buendia 11, 48

Newcastle team v Villa:

Dubravka, Trippier (Manquillo 46), Schar (Botman 46), Dummett (Lascelles 46), Targett (Barnes 70), Bruno (Joelinton 46), Tonali (L.Miley 46), Anderson (Burn 46), Almiron (Gordon 46), Murphy (Ritchie 46), Isak (Wilson 46)

Unused Subs:

Karius, Darlow, Ashby, Turner-Cooke, Parkinson

Players in the travelling party who went to the USA but weren’t named in the matchday squad v Villa:

Pope, Gillespie, Krafth, Willock, Lewis, Longstaff, A.Murphy, Savage, J.Miley, White

The full seven game pre-season programme of Newcastle United friendlies, including broadcasting details:

Saturday 15 July 2023

Gateshead 2 Newcastle 3

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Rangers 1 Newcastle 2

Sunday 23 July 2023 / Monday 24 July 2023

Newcastle 3 Aston Villa 3 (Played at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia)

Wednesday 26 July 2023 / Thursday 27 July 2023

Newcastle v Chelsea – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

USA Time – 8.15pm kick-off Wednesday 26 July

UK Time – 1.15am kick-off Thursday 27 July

(***To be screened live Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Ultra HDR, Sky Sports Premier League)

Friday 28 July 2023 / Saturday 29 July 2023

Newcastle v Brighton (7:30pm – Local time) Red Bull Arena, New Jersey – Sold out

USA Time – 7.30pm kick-off Friday 28 July

UK Time – 12.30am kick-off Saturday 29 July

(***To be screened live Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Ultra HDR, Sky Sports Premier League)

Saturday 5 August 2023

Newcastle v Fiorentina (3:30pm) Part of the Sela Cup at St James’ Park

Sunday 6 August 2023

Newcastle v Villarreal (4pm) Part of the Sela Cup at St James’ Park


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