Southampton remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after Ollie Watkins’ second-half header earned Aston Villa a narrow victory at St Mary’s.
Watkins nodded Douglas Luiz’s free-kick into the bottom corner with 13 minutes remaining as Villa secured their fifth win in seven league games under new manager Unai Emery.
The visitors dominated the ball but were lucky not to fall behind midway through the first half when Che Adams’ close-range effort was ruled out for offside.
Saints had the ball back in Villa’s net shortly after the hour mark, but James Ward-Prowse’s deflected strike was canceled out after Mohamed Elyounoussi fouled Jacob Ramsey in the build-up.
Watkins’ fifth goal of the season ultimately proved decisive, as the Saints’ three-game winning streak in all competitions came to an abrupt end.
The match at St Mary’s was suspended five minutes before halftime when a drone was spotted hovering over the Southampton penalty area.
Both teams were taken off the pitch by referee Michael Salisbury before reappearing 10 minutes later once police gave the go-ahead.
Villa victorious after a double letting go
Only Premier League leaders Arsenal have picked up 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 disrupt Southampton early on, with Emiliano Buendia and complete debutant Alex Moreno both firing wide from Gavin Bazunu’s goal on 20 minutes.
They survived a retirement when Adams’ first-half goal was disallowed, but squandered a great chance to go past when Ramsey fired straight at Bazunu from inside the box, with Leon Bailey sending the followed above the crossbar.
Bazunu almost handed Villa the opener early in the second half when his mistaken clearance allowed Ramsey to send Bailey back, but the Saints keeper atoned for his mistake by snuffing out the Jamaica international’s low shot.
Villa had another tight breakaway when Salisbury denied Ward-Prowse’s effort after Elyounoussi cut Ramsey’s ankle, but Watkins’ late effort secured a third straight league victory under their new boss.
They had Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for maintaining their narrow lead late in the game, the 30-year-old parrying Moussa Djenepo’s curling effort at the far post before collecting the resulting corner.
Saints lucky street after goals disallowed
Ahead of the game, Jones said escaping the relegation zone was the “first psychological barrier” Southampton had to overcome in an attempt to retain their top-flight status this season.
It’s a hurdle they have yet to clear, but they left the pitch ruining their luck after being denied a fourth straight win in all competitions by two close refereeing decisions.
Adams’ disallowed effort was by far their best opportunity of a 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 would be his fifth league goal since the World Cup before she was ruled out for Elyounoussi’s challenge on Ramsey.
Djenepo’s ferocious strike nearly saved a point but Jones must now find a way to lift his players for the first leg of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final at home to Newcastle.
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