Steve Bruce was harsh but fair when discussing his team’s performance in the 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Monday.
Newcastle was battered and bruised throughout the match, out-shot in the game 17-11 and beaten on the xG count 2.44-1.04, with half their xG total coming on one saved shot just before halftime.
That left Bruce shaking his head after the match, criticizing his team’s ability to put the home side under pressure at Villa Park. “I think that was the disappointment,” Bruce said during his post-match media availability when discussing the first half. “I think we didn’t do enough with the ball or without it to cause Aston Villa any real threat.”
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“For a half-hour we were too passive, and that’s the frustrating thing,” Bruce said, “because Aston Villa weren’t that great either and the game’s hinged on the first goal.”
It wasn’t just the attacking mentality that Bruce said was missing. He also wanted more from his defenders, who allowed a pair of set-piece goals, both coming on deliveries from Conor Hourihane who scored the first and assisted the second.
“I think our defenders should be defending that better, too many stood and watched it,” Bruce said of the second goal scored by Anwar El Ghazi in front of net, “and unfortunately in two minutes in the Premier League the game’s gone.”
Bruce was asked if the international break put a stop to the team’s momentum, which he brushed off. “There’s no excuses really. In the first half we didn’t do enough, and we have to be honest enough to admit that.”