Danny Ings’s exemplary overhead kick was a goal worthy of winning any game but Aston Villa’s victory was secured by two VAR decisions that went against Newcastle United.
The former Southampton striker, signed for a quarter of the £100m Villa received for Jack Grealish, followed up his penalty in last week’s 3-2 defeat at Watford by launching into mid-air at the end of the first half to decorate his home debut in memorable fashion.
Newcastle have now lost both their opening games but only after David Coote, the referee, decided to award a handball against Jamaal Lascelles, the Newcastle captain, for Anwar El-Ghazi to score a 62nd-minute penalty.
Then VAR ruled Callum Wilson to be offside when he was taken out by Emiliano Martínez 15 minutes from time and Coote had awarded a penalty. That seemed harsh in the extreme, though Villa were good value for their win.
Indeed, Steve Bruce suggested this undermined the new Premier League mandate brought in to favour attackers on marginal offside calls. The Newcastle manager said: “The big decisions went against us. With the offside decision, I didn’t think we were [meant to be] looking at lines for armpits any more.”
He also thought “no one in the ground thought that was handball” when Mings’s header hit his captain’s arm for Villa’s penalty. “Lascelles’s foot is above his head so if your foot is above your head, you’ve got to put your hands up,” the former Villa manager said.
“We never saw any [controversial VAR calls] last week. I thought we were [meant to be] erring on the side of the attacker and [Wilson is] offside by, what, a big toe? So I’m really frustrated with that and the handball.”
Lascelles had a torrid afternoon. The Newcastle captain, back after a foot injury, was not under great pressure when he sliced the ball out for a throw-in as the half-time whistle approached.
Matt Cash hurled the ball into the area where Mings, Grealish’s successor as Villa captain, climbed above Lascelles to flick on a header into the centre of the goalmouth. There Ings had time to compose himself before executing the perfect overhead kick to the left of Freddie Woodman.
Yet Newcastle had started well enough, with Wilson inexplicably missing a great chance in the fifth minute. Running off the back of Mings, the striker was clean through on goal but sidefooted his shot wide.
But with Douglas Luiz back just 14 days after helping Brazil win Olympic gold in Tokyo and calmly protecting the back four, offering John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey freedom in a 4-3-3 shape, Villa looked increasingly secure.
By contrast Newcastle, in a formation that was always more five at the back than three, fell away. The loss of Isaac Hayden at half-time after an injury only exacerbated their downturn and Lascelles’s return to forget was compounded when VAR decided he could have avoided handling Mings’s header goalwards in the 58th minute.
Newcastle’s need for a bit of good fortune was underlined with 15 minutes remaining when Wilson, running on to Jacob Murphy’s ball into the channel, was taken out by a reckless challenge from Martínez, who was cautioned. However, the VAR decided Wilson was offside. Replays shown on the big screen only fuelled Wilson’s understandable frustration: there was no benefit to the attacker evident here.
Dean Smith applauded Ings’s goalscoring expertise. “We’ve seen him score a 20-yarder in the top corner against us last year so we certainly know the type of goals he can score,” the Villa manager said.
“But it was a super finish and one which will be in the list already for goal of the season even though it’s only his second game. It was what we needed.”