NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — Kieran Trippier scored from a free kick for the second time in six days to fire Newcastle to a 1-0 win over Aston Villa and a third straight Premier League victory on Sunday.
The England full back’s 35th-minute goal helped Newcastle move four points clear of the relegation zone on an afternoon when VAR played a key role.
Trippier’s decisive effort came after referee Craig Pawson had been advised to change his decision to award a penalty. The official also had to rule out Ollie Watkins’ equalizer for offside on the advice of VAR.
Midtable Villa mounted a concerted second-half fightback, but ultimately was unable to trouble goalkeeper Martin Dubravka enough to prevent his team winning three in a row for the first time since November 2018.
Joe Willock sent a 20th-minute shot wide of Emiliano Martinez’s left post after Chris Wood had made a nuisance of himself on the edge of the Villa penalty area and, with Ryan Fraser repeatedly finding space down the left, Newcastle looked marginally the more threatening.
The hosts were awarded a 31st-minute penalty by Pawson after Willock had been tripped by Calum Chambers, but a VAR check revealed contact had taken place inches outside the area.
However Trippier, who scored his first goal for the club from a free kick against Everton on Tuesday, repeated the feat with the help of a slight deflection off Emi Buendia’s thigh.
Wood sent a 43rd-minute shot well wide after Willock robbed Douglas Luiz and the Newcastle striker deflected John McGinn’s shot just past his own post in stoppage time.
Newcastle was dealt a blow, however, within three minutes of the restart when Trippier, who had shaken off a calf problem to start, went down after being stamped on his foot and was unable to continue.
“He’s gone for an X-ray at the hospital,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said. “We’re keeping everything crossed hoping that there’s no broken bone.”
Villa had resumed in determined mood, with Buendia in particular looking keen to make amends, and Watkins fired over from distance and Matty Cash across the face of goal in quick succession.
Dubravka made his first save of note to claim Luiz’s 56th-minute free kick, although was far from extended in doing so, while Martinez was relieved to see Allan Saint-Maximin’s goal-bound effort deflected wide by Cash’s lunge at the other end.
The visitors thought they had leveled when Watkins headed home at the far post after Philippe Coutinho’s shot had looped up off Fabian Schar with 61 minutes gone, but after a lengthy VAR check his effort was ruled out for offside.
Steven Gerrard’s men piled on the pressure to leave Newcastle defending stoutly as time ran down, with Danny Ings and Leon Bailey having replaced Watkins and Buendia, but the hosts held firm.
“It shows we’re in a good place at the moment,” Howe said. “We’ve worked incredibly hard. In the last three games, I don’t think there’s been any secret to how we’ve won the games.
“I don’t think they’ve been fluent footballing performances where we’ve played from back to front and all the things that we potentially want to do in the future but it’s been very disciplined, hard-working, a lot of energy, a lot of teamwork, team spirit, togetherness that have made the difference for us.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports