Ollie Watkins’ second-half header gave Aston Villa back-to-back wins for the first time under Unai Emery as they beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s.
Hopes would have been high among the home fans to climb out of the relegation zone after their side’s crucial win at fellow strugglers Everton last weekend, but the hosts mustered just one shot in the first half.
A nine-minute delay caused by a drone flying over the stadium just before half-time was the funniest thing to happen in the first 45 minutes, but things finally seemed to liven up when James Ward-Prowse’s deflected shot looped. Emiliano Martinez gave Southampton the lead after an hour.
However, referee Michael Salisbury disallowed a goal for a soft foul by Mohamed Elyounoussi after Jacob Ramsey was advised by VAR to review the incident, and Villa poured salt into the Saints’ wounds when Watkins nodded home Douglas Luiz’s free-kick in the 77th minute. Condemnation of the hosts for a fourth consecutive defeat at home in the Premier League.
Southampton: Bajunu (5), Lanko (6), Kaleta-Carr (6), Salisu (7), Walker-Peters (6), Diallo (7), Lavia (6), Idoji (6), Ward-Prose (6) , Armstrong (5), Adams (5).
Members: Mara (5), Elyunoussi (5), Peraud (5), Orsic (n/a), Genepo (n/a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (8), Young (7), Konsa (7), Mings (6), Moreno (7), Ramsey (7), Kamara (6), Luiz (7), Bailey (5), Watkins (7), Buendia (6).
Members: Coutinho (6), Cash (n/a), Dendoncker (n/a).
Man of the Match: Emiliano Martinez.
Saints’ momentum ended by Villa and VAR
Nathan Jones was finally up and running as Southampton manager after overseeing three consecutive wins in three different competitions in the fortnight before Villa’s visit, but that momentum ended during a disappointing afternoon against Emery’s side.
The visitors had over 70 per cent possession in an impressive first half but went into the break goalless thanks to some scrappy finishing, with Ramsey one-on-one with the Saints keeper before Leon Bailey fired straight at Gavin Bajunu. Rebound over the crossbar.
- Southampton make one change, with Adam Armstrong replacing Mohamed Elyunoussi, while new signing Charlie Alcaraz is named on the bench.
- Aston Villa also made just one change, with Alex Moreno making his first start in place of the injured Lucas Digne.
Ramsey was unlucky to win a penalty after Mohamed Salisu tripped him from behind, while Saints’ only threatening attack saw Kyle Walker-Peters denied by an offside flag as he bundled the ball home.
A drone flying over the pitch saw the players return to the dressing room, but Villa stayed high as they returned, with Bailey again in vain, shooting well past Bajunu after the ‘keeper gifted the ball to the visitors.
But Southampton thought they had taken the lead against the run of play when Ward-Prowse struck for the fifth time in his last five league games, only for the captain’s celebrations to be cut short when referee Salisbury advised the build-up to have another look. – above
The official saw a nudge on Ramsey’s back by Alunousi – and things went from bad to worse for Jones and his team when Watkins was left unmarked in the middle of the area as Luiz’s inviting free-kick continued Villa’s impressive form under Emery.
Emery’s Villa win with or without the ball
Having won five of his first seven Premier League games, it’s fair to say Emery has made a very impressive start to life at Villa.
After being Held at Villa Park by Wolf And then pain a Defeat at home to Stevenage In the FA Cup, Emery said Sky Sports that he wanted his side to “reform with force” which the sides were happy to capture.
Emery can now claim to be a team capable of winning games when they spend more than half of the game out of possession – such as against Man Utd and Spurs – and when they have to take the initiative, such as at St Mary’s.
They may remain in 11th place in the Premier League, but Emery’s side are now just five points behind fifth-placed Spurs. The sky is the limit in the second half of the season.
Emery: We should be proud
Emery urged his side to be proud of their work as they returned to Birmingham with three points and a clean sheet, saying: “I think we played very well in the first 45 minutes, controlling the game and not denying chances.
“But in the second half, it’s very difficult to continue and the challenge was to be consistent. We suffered in some moments but we were positive to win. We competed very well. After what the players did, I think we deserved it.
“We should be proud of our work and our supporters – they were with us again.”
Emery revealed he is still working to improve the Villa squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, saying: “We are looking for something in the transfer window, but we are going to add some players if they can improve. If not, we will wait. .
“My idea is to improve the team. Some players, they are going to leave, and we want to add players for the best balance in each position.”
Jones: The ref couldn’t wait to blow his whistle
Jones was not only unhappy with the performance of the officials but also the way his side defended the free-kick from which Watkins scored the winning goal.
“It’s disappointing,” the Southampton boss said when asked about Ward-Prowse’s disallowed goal. “Is this a clear and obvious error? I’m not sure.
“I thought the referee couldn’t wait to give the free-kick. He blew every opportunity. We have a bit of resentment over that but it’s just one of those things.
“It’s a different story if we defend the set-play well – that’s all we need to do. We showed simplicity and that’s happened in a few games this season.
“We have to defend it better. The performance level was good in terms of limiting the really good aspects to few.
“It’s just a frustrating afternoon. We can’t let two players come between us from free-kicks, we looked really naive in that. That’s the stuff we need to stamp out.
“We had to get the points. We were a team on the rise. We made all the positive changes, we wanted to go after the game. It wasn’t necessary for us to last, we wanted to win the game.”
Opta Stats: Saints continue miserable home form
- Aston Villa have won three Premier League away games in a row for the first time since November 2020. They had won just three of their previous 15.
- Southampton have lost four Premier League home games in a row for the first time since November 2019, while Saints have won fewer home points (6) than any other side in the top four tiers of English league football this season.
- Aston Villa won three Premier League games in a row for the first time in April 1999 against Southampton.
- It is the last season (20 games) Southampton have finished bottom of the Premier League table a day since the final day of the 2004–05 campaign, when they suffered their only relegation from the competition to date.
- Ollie Watkins has been involved in 40 Premier League goals for Aston Villa, scoring 29 and providing 11 assists. That’s more than double the number of Villa’s other players (Danny Ings, 19) since he joined the club.
Southampton Shift their focus away from the Premier League to compete with a trio of cup fixtures. Host of Saints Newcastle Carabao Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday, live on Sky Sports – kick-off 8pm.
Then Southampton is the host team of the championship Blackpool Next Saturday in the FA Cup fourth round – kick-off 3pm – before the return leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday January 31, live on Sky Sports – Kick off at 8pm.
Their next Premier League game is away with a 3pm kick-off Brentford on Saturday February 4th.
Aston VillaA third round exit from the FA Cup means they have next weekend off. Their next Premier League game is the Midlands derby at home Lester On Saturday 4th February – Kick off 3pm.