Southampton 0 – 1 Aston Villa. Southampton remains rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after Ollie Watkins’ second-half header earned Aston Villa a narrow win at St Mary’s.
Watkins nodded Douglas Luiz’s inswinging free-kick into the bottom corner with 13 minutes remaining as Villa claimed their fifth victory in seven league games under new manager Unai Emery.
The visitors dominated possession but were fortunate not to fall behind midway through the first half when Che Adams’ close-range effort was ruled out for offside.
Saints had the ball in the Villa net again shortly after the hour mark, but James Ward-Prowse’s deflected strike was chalked off following Mohamed Elyounoussi’s foul on Jacob Ramsey in the build-up.
Watkins’ fifth goal of the season ultimately proved decisive, as the Saints’ three-game winning run in all competitions came to an abrupt end.
The game at St Mary’s was suspended five minutes before half-time when a drone was spotted hovering above the Southampton penalty area.
Both teams were taken off the pitch by referee Michael Salisbury before re-emerging 10 minutes later once police had given the all-clear.
Only Arsenal have collected as many Premier League points as Villa since Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in the Villa Park hot seat last October.
The visitors were crisp in possession at St Mary’s but struggled to properly trouble Southampton early on, Emiliano Buendia and full debutant Alex Moreno both firing well wide of Gavin Bazunu’s goal inside 20 minutes.
They survived a let-off when Adams’ first-half goal was disallowed but spurned an excellent opportunity to go in front when Ramsey shot straight at Bazunu from inside the area, with Leon Bailey sending the follow-up over the crossbar
Bazunu almost gifted Villa the opener in the early stages of the second half when his miscued clearance allowed Ramsey to tee up Bailey, but the Saints goalkeeper atoned for his error by smothering the Jamaica international’s low shot.
Villa had another narrow escape when Salisbury disallowed Ward-Prowse’s effort after Elyounoussi clipped Ramsey’s ankle, but Watkins’ late effort secured a third straight-away league win under their new boss.
They had Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for preserving their narrow lead late on, the 30-year-old parrying Moussa Djenepo’s curling effort past the far post before gathering the resulting corner.
Before the game, Jones said escaping the relegation zone was the “first psychological barrier” Southampton needed to overcome as they bid to maintain their top-flight status this season.
It is a hurdle they have yet to clear, but they left the pitch ruing their luck after being denied a fourth successive victory in all competitions by two tight refereeing decisions.
Adams’ disallowed effort was by far their best opportunity of the first half in which they managed just one regular attempt – a Lyanco header after just five minutes.
Manager Nathan Jones’ half-time switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 appeared to give his players renewed energy, with Ward-Prowse scoring what he thought was his fifth league goal since the World Cup before it was ruled out for Elyounoussi’s challenge on Ramsey.
Djenepo’s fierce strike almost salvaged a point, but Jones must now find a way to lift his players for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at home to high-flying Newcastle.
source – BBC