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Watkins extends hot streak as Villa outclass Newcastle

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BIRMINGHAM, England: An early strike from Jacob Ramsey and two second-half goals from Ollie Watkins earned Aston Villa a 3-0 win over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday to move Unai Emery's rejuvenated team to within six points of the top four.

Ramsey ran on to Watkins' cushioned header to give Villa the lead with an emphatic side-footed finish in the 11th minute, after an excellent cross by John McGinn.

Watkins added Villa's second with a sharp strike on the turn from point-blank range in the 64th minute and grabbed his 11th goal in his last 12 matches six minutes from time with a simple finish at the back post.

"I think we are on a great run at the moment and playing good football," Watkins said. "There's real togetherness in the team and we're looking forward to games to come."

Villa came within a whisker of taking the lead with less than 30 seconds on the clock when Watkins hit the post after being played in by Ramsey.

Newcastle responded with Alexander Isak drawing a sharp save from Emiliano Martinez but that was as good as it got for Eddie Howe's men in the first half.

Emery set Villa up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Emiliano Buendia partnering Watkins up front and the ploy worked perfectly.

Buendia's tendency to drop deep created space for Ramsey and John McGinn to run into and helped ensure Villa outnumbered Newcastle in midfield.

Ramsey hit the post for Villa in the 15th minute when he ran on to Alex Moreno's cut back and Newcastle keeper Nick Pope had to be quick off his line to head clear and deny the Villa midfielder late in the half.

The visitors' best chance came just before the hour mark when Isak drew an acrobatic one-handed save from Emiliano Martinez, but Watkins put the ball in the back of the net from Villa's next attack, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

McGinn fired over from the edge of the box before Watkins collected Moreno's low cross and spun to seal Villa's fifth league win in a row.

"I think it's one of those performances that we need to analyse and move on quickly," Howe said. "We weren't there today. Villa did well but by our own standard we were off it and if that's the case you're never going to win."

Villa are sixth in the table on 50 points, three behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and six adrift of Manchester United in fourth and Newcastle in third. -- Reuters

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