Sandro Tonali inspires Newcastle to stunning Premier League start in Aston Villa thrashing

Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes scored on their Newcastle debut before Alexander Isak’s brace and Callum Wilson wrapped up the three points.

Damian Spellman
Saturday 12 August 2023 20:56 BST
Sandro Tonali, right, opened the scoring on his Newcastle debut in the sparkling performance (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Sandro Tonali, right, opened the scoring on his Newcastle debut in the sparkling performance (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Wire)

Sandro Tonali paid off the first instalment of his £52million transfer fee as he marked a fine debut with his first goal and inspired Newcastle to a 5-1 drubbing of Aston Villa.

The 23-year-old Italy international opened the scoring just six minutes into his first competitive appearance for the Magpies and had a hand in two more of their goals as Alexander Isak helped himself to a double and substitutes Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes struck late on after Moussa Diaby, also making his bow in England’s top flight, had levelled.

However, a hugely entertaining game win was overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to Villa’s England defender Tyrone Mings, who was carried from the pitch on a stretcher to warm applause from a crowd of 52,207 at St James’ Park after going down following a clash with Isak.

Neither Tonali nor Diaby wasted any time in making a significant impact for their new employers.

Less than six minutes had elapsed when the Italian timed his arrival into the six-yard box perfectly to volley home Anthony Gordon’s cross after Emiliano Martinez had parried Bruno Guimaraes strike, and he might have doubled his tally two minutes later but for the goalkeeper’s block.

However, Newcastle’s advantage lasted only fleetingly when Diaby, who had seen an earlier attempt from a tight angle saved by Nick Pope, was similarly well placed to equalise after Ollie Watkins had flicked on Lucas Digne’s left-wing cross.

But the impressive Tonali was not finished and it was his deep 16th-minute cross which was turned acrobatically across goal by the stretching Sven Botman for Alexander Isak to open his account for the season from close range.

Pope was relieved to see Watkins’ scuffed first-time effort from livewire Diaby’s pull-back after another menacing run slide just wide as an end-to-end encounter unfolded at frantic pace.

Villa’s fortunes took a further turn for the worse when Mings, just days after midfielder Emiliano Buendia suffered a serious knee injury, was carried from the field following a tangle of legs with Isak.

The visitors nevertheless refused to take a backwards step in a breathless contest and Watkins might have done better after meeting Digne’s corner unopposed, while Diaby fired into the side-netting from Luiz’s intelligent pass three minutes before the break.

Martinez picked up a stoppage-time booking for hauling back Miguel Almiron outside his penalty area with the home crowd calling for a red card and making their feelings towards referee Andy Madley abundantly clear when he did not produce one.

Another Villa new boy, Youri Tielemans, entered the fray as a half-time replacement for Leon Bailey, but Gordon saw a 51st-minute attempt deflected wide after Almiron had led a pacy counter-attack.

Tielemans helped to drive the visitors forward once again, but that allowed the Magpies to exploit the space they left behind, and they went further ahead with 58 minutes gone when Isak pounced on a slip by Ezri Konsa before chipping the ball over the advancing Martinez.

The Villa keeper had to race from his line once again to deny Joelinton, but recovered in time to field Almiron’s follow-up, although it was Pope who was called upon to repel Watkins’ 64th-minute drive before Matty Cash blazed over from the rebound.

Martinez was beaten once again 13 minutes from time when Barnes collected Tonali’s pass and crossed for Wilson to score, and although the Argentina international denied Wilson a second with an instinctive save, he was beaten again by Barnes in added time.

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