Saints 2 Aston Villa 3 - Saints slump to third straight Premier League loss (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Saints 2 Aston Villa 3 - Saints slump to third straight Premier League loss
9:56pm Wednesday 4th December 2013 in Sport
SAINTS slumped to their first home league defeat since last April as Fabian Delph's first Premier League goal gave Aston Villa a thrilling victory at St Mary's. Delph's wondrous strike 10 minutes from time saw Villa secure an impressive smash-and-grab 3-2 win. All three of Villa's goals came against the run of play, as Saints were made to pay for their failure to turn their domination into goals. Having lost at Arsenal and Chelsea, this defeat saw Southampton fall to three defeats on the trot for the first time since Mauricio Pochettino's arrival in January. Saints began brightly and captain Adam Lallana saw a cross clip the bar, before Gabriel Agbonlahor showed pace and composure to net the opener after 15 minutes. Karim El Ahmadi was inches away from shocking Saints again moments into the second half, only for Jay Rodriguez to head home at the other end shortly afterwards. It was no less than Saints deserved after dominating possession, but again Villa went ahead through Libor Kozak - starting in attack instead of Christian Benteke, dropped after seven scoreless matches. Again Saints showed character to level through substitute Dani Osvaldo, only for Villa to snatch victory in the 80th minute. Delph was allowed time and space to rifle home a superb effort from distance, extending Villa's unbeaten league run to five matches. Heavy traffic in and around Southampton meant a large number were not in their seats at the start of a match which began well for the hosts. Rodriguez's right-wing cross was squared back across goal by Rickie Lambert for Lallana, who turned exquisitely in the box and looked set to strike home until Ron Vlaar fantastically flung himself in front of the ball. Moments later Lallana was proving a threat again, this time sending a cross in from the left that grazed Brad Guzan's crossbar. Saints continued in the ascendancy and, after referee Jon Moss waved away claims that Guzan had handled outside his area, Rodriguez stung the Villa goalkeeper's palms from distance. Villa had offered nothing of note in the opening exchanges yet caught the hosts cold after 15 minutes. Agbonlahor turned Maya Yoshida on the halfway line to latch on to a hopeful Delph through ball, burst forward and cut past the sliding Dejan Lovren before coolly slotting home. It was just the third goal Southampton have conceded at home this season and one they quickly attempted to make amends for. Rodriguez met a looped Nathaniel Clyne cross with an incredibly powerful header, but Guzan was alert to acrobatically turn the ball around the post and Lovren had a header blocked from the resulting corner. A great last-ditch Ciaran Clark interception denied Lallana another chance at goal as Saints continued to up the ante, with Pochettino bringing on Osvaldo for James Ward-Prowse after just 38 minutes in search of a change in fortunes. There were more changes at the break, with Jack Cork and Matthew Lowton replacing Victor Wanyama and Vlaar, as the second half began frantically. Delph did well to squeeze a ball through to karim El Ahmadi down the right, with the Villa midfielder's low angled strike going just inches wide of Paulo Gazzaniga's goal. It was a missed chance Paul Lambert's side were made to rue immediately, with Clyne swinging in a fine cross from the right for Rodriguez to power a header past Guzan. Rickie Lambert tried an audacious 40-yard free-kick soon after and Rodriguez was blocked off at the near post, before Osvaldo was sloppily dispossessed before he could shoot. The Italy international soon showed his class, though, flicking a Lallana cross goalwards only for Guzan to save low to his left. Saints continued to press, now in a 3-4-3 formation after Clyne hobbled off, although Villa again caught them out. Cork was caught out by El Ahmadi on the right flank and the Morocco international's cross was turned home by Kozak. It was the summer signing's last action of note, replaced immediately by Benteke who saw penalty appeals waved away soon after. Saints were soon level again, though. Substitute Jose Fonte sent a fine right-wing cross to Lambert, whose knock back was bundled home by Osvaldo. Rodriguez came close to making it 3-2 moments later with a fine header, only for Villa to again go ahead and in some style. Again against the run of play, Delph was given space to voyage forwards and struck home an outstanding 22-yard effort into the top corner. Saints pushed for yet another leveller, but were unable to save their unbeaten home record. Osvaldo was involved in an altercation at the end of the match and was shown a yellow card.
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