Aston Villa 0 Southampton 1 - match report
The pressure increased on manager Paul Lambert after Aston Villa plunged into the Premier League relegation zone following a desperate defeat to Southampton.
Rickie Lambert scored a contentious penalty in the 34th minute and despite Villa's best efforts they were unable to find the net and were booed off the pitch as they crashed to their fifth home defeat of the season.
Villa made four changes from the side which lost 3-1 to league two Bradford City in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final.
Brad Guzan, Brett Holman, Ashley Westwood and Enda Stevens came in for the Shay Given, Joe Bennett, Barry Bannan and Gabby Agbonlahor.
The hosts made a bright start with a shot from Christian Benteke in the fifth minute but they quickly faded as Southampton seized the early initiative.
Rickie Lambert sent strike partner Jay Rodriguez clear early in the game but the Southampton forward lost control of the ball with Guzan quick to react at his near post.
Villa had a fortunate escape in the 22nd minute when Jason Puncheon's cross picked out the head of Rodriguez and Guzan breathed a sigh of relief when his glancing header whizzed past the post.
The visitors continued to pose the greater threat and six minutes later Luke Shaw whistled an angled shot past Guzan's far post while Puncheon should have done better moments later when he smashed the ball into the Holte End from just inside the area.
Southampton were then awarded a controversial penalty by referee Mark Halsey in the 34th minute for a foul by Enda Stevens on Rodriguez, although there appeared to be no contact.
Lambert stepped up and converted the spot-kick with confidence as he sent Guzan the wrong way with a powerful effort inside the post.
Brett Holman screwed a shot wide in the 36th minute but Shaw was unlucky not to add a second with a rampaging run down the left and forced Guzan to make a smart save.
Villa had greater urgency after the interval and Andreas Weimann brought a save out of Artur Boruc with a shot from 25 yards which the keeper spilled but Westwood failed to on the end of it.
Stevens had a sweetly struck effort brilliantly saved by the Saints keeper shortly afterwards but once again Villa struggled to maintain their momentum.
Nathan Baker made a last-ditch tackle to deny Rodriguez in the 58th minute and the Saints forward caused havoc again shortly after with a dangerous run down the left but Stevens hacked it away with Puncheon lurking.
Benteke created an opening for himself in the 80th minute on the edge of the box but lifted his curling effort over the crossbar and the Belgium international headed at the keeper from substitute Bannan's free-kick three minutes later.
Benteke continued to be Villa's dangerman and he bought a diving save out of Boruc with a header and Baker headed against the bar in the 88th minute.
The claret and blues threw the kitchen sink at Southampton in the final few minutes but the Saints defence held on to give Nigel Adkins' side all three points.
By Timothy Abraham
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