Sandro Tonali and Alexander Isak star in Newcastle’s win over Aston Villa | Premier League

The fly-on-the-wall documentary We are Newcastle United Viewing on Prime Video every Friday night may be safe and sterile but the real thing is anything but.

Newcastle is undressed, uncluttered, and seen to the naked eye, scintillating and brutal, ruthless and uncompromising. In the cameo, Aston Villa reminded everyone that they were still a decent team, but Unai Emery’s players couldn’t keep up with the edge and desire of the hosts, who found a new cult hero in Italy’s Sandro Tonali.

Indeed, as the increasingly forlorn Villa boss surveyed the defensive carnage unfolding before him, I wondered if he regretted turning down the Newcastle job Eddie Howe accepted in November 2021.

Since then, a combination of Howe’s training and Saudi Arabian money has created a team that looks eminently capable of Champions League honors this season. Not to mention fueling Tyneside optimism.

Sure enough, just seven minutes later St James’ Park echoed to the triumphant choruses of “We’re going to win the league”. With sixty seconds left, Tonali finished off a move he had started thanks to a midfield interception, and Newcastle were ahead.

After stretching to connect with a superb cross on the left wing by the outstanding Anthony Gordon, Milan’s £50m summer signing Howe relentlessly sent the ball past Emiliano Martinez.

At that point, the high-energy press showed up in Newcastle powered by high-voltage electricity, causing Emery to plead calm from his panicked charges.

Villa needed to regroup but, luckily for the Spaniard, Frenchman Moussa Diaby was on hand to help. Celebrating his summer transfer from Bayer Leverkusen, Diaby hit an attractive bouncing volley behind Nick Pope after being left unmarked from 12 yards. Again, that goal came from a cross, in this case it was flicked in by Olly Watkins.

Newcastle quickly regained their lead. Once again, Tonali played a pivotal role, collecting a short free kick from Kieran Trippier and lofting it into Sven Putman’s penalty area to push Alexander Isak into the Argentine goalkeeper.

With Tonali, Bruno Guimarães and Joelinton – who played a fantastic two-man game with Gordon in the preamble to Tonali’s opening game – showed every indication of proving that an often-fantastic midfield trio of amateurs was irresistible.

“Sandro was fantastic,” said the Newcastle boss, whose team traveled to Manchester City for the thriller on Saturday. “It was a tight and tough match that was decided by our toughness and we can improve. But we want our supporters to dream.”

Sandro Tonali runs wide after opening the scoring for Newcastle
Sandro Tonali runs wide after opening the scoring for Newcastle. Photo: Richard Lee/Shutterstock

Villa also have ambitions to impress in elite circles and when Diaby and Watkins join forces they sometimes succeed in emphasizing that Putman and his fellow defenders are human beings after all.

Emery could have done without losing his central defensive pivot when Tyrone Mings sustained a serious knee injury, potentially a torn ACL, in the 30th minute after a routine encounter with Isaac.

“The result is bad, but losing Tyrone was even worse,” said Emery. “It doesn’t look good. It’s very sad for him and for us.”

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Ali made his debut with Villa in Pau Torres. The Spanish defender, previously part of Villarreal’s Emery backline, has shown some elegant touches, but could wish for a less tiring performance.

Martinez certainly looked annoyed as he forced his way out of his area to be beat down by Miguel Almiron before pulling the Paraguayan full-back down. Along with the majority of the crowd, Howe demanded a red card but the referee only issued a yellow card. He seemed to have decided, correctly, that with three Villa shirts blocking Almiron’s already long path to goal, a goal-scoring opportunity wasn’t obvious.

It doesn’t matter; As Tonali’s movement, sharp, elegant and nimble, continued to captivate his new crowd, Isak grew in his attacking prowess.

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The Swedish striker scored again after Ezri Konsa lost his concentration and did a massive job of subduing Gordon’s fine pass. All that remains is for Isaacs to step in, pinch off possession and pass the ball over Martinez’ lead.

Even the later joint withdrawal of Isaac and Gordon did not go well for Villa. Their substitutes, Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes soon combined, with the latter squared off for Wilson to score Newcastle’s fourth.

Not to be outdone, Barnes then rallied through Villa’s rushing and smashing defense to become the third player to debut on the evening.

“Newcastle’s strength was just too big,” said Emery. “They were good.”

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