Southampton 2-0 Aston Villa: Early Shane Long goal and Stuart Armstrong’s injury time second piles relegation fears onto sorry Villa who take SIXTY-EIGHT MINUTES to register their first shot
- Shane Long gave Southampton a deserved lead after eight minutes
- Saints had a host of chances to double their lead but failed to take advantage
- Struggling Villa didn’t manage a shot in the opening hour of the game
- As Villa pushed for an equaliser Stuart Armstrong fired into an empty net
Dean Smith says every game is a cup final for Aston Villa. If they play like this next weekend, Manchester City will romp to a fifth League Cup win in seven years.
So superior were Southampton that the hosts should have had this wrapped up inside 20 minutes. A shot count of 28-3 tells its own story.
The victory, sealed by Shane Long’s eighth minute goal and Stuart Armstrong’s late strike, moves the Saints to all-but safe status, but plunges Villa into further uncertainty. What they needed was a perfect Wembley warm-up. What they got was a chastening lesson. Without the returning Tyrone Mings, this would have been even more embarrassing.
Stuart Armstrong’s late second sealed an 2-0 victory for Southampton over Aston Villa
Shane Long celebrates after scoring his ninth career goal against Villa in the eighth minute
Southampton (4-3-3): McCarthy, Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Smallbone (Romeu 80), Armstrong, Djenepo, Long (Adams 73), Ings (Obafemi 73)
Subs: Gunn, Valery, Vestergaard, Boufal
Goals: Long (8)
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl
Aston Villa (3-4-3): Reina, Konsa (Hourihane 59), Mings, Hause, Guilbert, Luiz, Nakamba (Baston 81), Targett, El Ghazi (Trezeguet 28), Samatta, Grealish
Subs: Nyland, Elmohamady, Engels, Drinkwater
Booked: Konsa (45), Reina (71)
Head Coach: Dean Smith
Referee: Craig Pawson
Smith was spitting feathers afterwards, putting it on a par with the dismal 3-0 December defeat by Watford as the worst of his spell in charge.
‘I think the thing that hurt me the most was the lack of fight, that competitive edge in the first half. We got better in the second half but we didn’t have to do an awful lot to do better. I sit here and take full responsibility for that. But that has to be the lowest of the low.’
On his inconsistent squad, who fought so gamely last week against Tottenham, he added: ‘They have to show me what they’re about. They certainly didn’t today. There’s too many training ground players.’
With former striker Charlie Austin speaking disparagingly about Southampton fans, and Ralph Hasenhuttl saying St Mary’s isn’t the easiest place to play in, the home fans played their part today, as the Austrian acknowledged.
Southampton had a host of chances to add to their lead but failed to take advantage
Shane Long gave Southampton a deserved lead after guiding the ball in with his knee
Anwar El Ghazi was forced off in the 28th minute through injury as Villa woes continued
‘It was not only nasty but also very positive from our side and our players because we tried to show them that we tried to create chances and play quick in behind.
‘This is what the crowd wants to see and we gave them what they want to see and they gave us what we want to have.’
There was little to offend the visitors in a vanilla programme – Sean Dyche took umbrage at an article in last weekend’s edition which called Burnley a long-ball side with weaknesses down their left – and from the off Southampton were hungrier, savvier and better organised.
Plus Villa have the worst defensive record in the Premier League – 52 and counting – and their inability to do the basics, plus Pepe Reina’s dodgy distribution, does little to calm the nerves. In a fine opening salvo, Southampton corner followed corner, while free-kicks galore were whizzed in by James Ward-Prowse’s wand of a right boot.
Mings, restored to the Villa side after a bout of tonsillitis, was vital, nodding away high balls galore and deflecting a long-range Will Smallbone shot onto a post.
Soon, Southampton’s pressure told. The electric Moussa Djenepo bamboozled down the left after pouncing onto Ryan Bertrand’s deflected through ball. At the byline, he centred with Long deflecting beyond Reina at his near post with his upper thigh.
When in possession Villa couldn’t cope with Southampton’s pressing, but with the ball they did not help themselves. Reina’s poor clearance only found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who nodded into the path of Ings.
A swift touch later and Djenepo was through. But with both Mings and Reina at full-stretch, the keeper made amends with a despairing save.
Jack Grealish cut a frustrated figure as he struggled to inspire Villa into creating chances
Conor Hourihane’s introduction gave Villa more of a threat as they look to salvage a point
Reina had a nervous moment as he came to meet a through ball but managed to scrape clear
As half-time neared, Jack Grealish fed Mbwana Samatta with a reverse pass, Samatta finished with aplomb. The ground fell silent. With good reason, he was one of three Villa players offside.
Villa started the second half brightly, but fell into familiar pitfalls. Ings went close with an improvised stab, then Armstrong rounded Reina before firing into the side netting.
Hojbjerg began and almost finished an end-to end move. He robbed Grealish on the edge of his area, darted forward unchallenged until half-way before releasing Long on the right. The Dane met his cross with a crisp volley from the edge of the Villa box, but Reina was equal to it.
Hasenhuttl switched his front pairing on 73 minutes, Michael Obafemi replacing Long and Che Adams for Ings.
Villa boss Dean Smith will be hoping for an improvement next week at Wembley
Still yet to score since his summer move from Birmingham, Adams went close from distance and then was robbed by Kortney Hause’s desperate block. With five minutes to go the game was still, somehow, alive.
Grealish forced a corner. Sensing an unlikely point, everyone in a Villa shirt piled forward But after Alex McCarthy punched clear, Adams found Armstrong with a splendid cross-field ball.
With Reina in no-man’s land, cheeks puffing, the goal was at his mercy, and the Scot converted from a tight angle to give Southampton a deserved cushion, and Villa plenty to ponder.
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