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Live Commentary: Aston Villa 0-1 Southampton - as it happened

Sports Mole brings you live text updates as struggling Aston Villa and Southampton meet at Villa Park.
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Today's encounter at Villa Park was one that both sides knew was important to win.

As it was, a converted penalty from Rickie Lambert after Jay Rodriguez had won a soft penalty was enough for the travelling Saints to claim all three points from their trip to Birmingham.

Paul Lambert's Villa pushed hard for an equaliser in the closing stages, but their efforts were not rewarded.

Below is our minute-by-minute updates of how the match unfolded.


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Afternoon all. This is quite simply a massive match for both teams. It's one that neither dare lose, particularly because a win would put some breathing space between themselves and relegation trouble.

Before we get into all the pre-match chat, facts and figures, let's bring you the team news from Villa Park...

TEAMS:

VILLA: Guzan; Stevens, Clark, Lowton, Baker; N'Zogbia, Delph, Westwood, Holman; Weimann; Benteke

SOUTHAMPTON: Boruc; Yoshida, Shaw, Hooiveld, Clyne; Schneiderlin, Puncheon, Cork, Ramirez; Lambert, Rodriguez


So there is still no Adam Lallana for Southampton, who have missed his influence in the midfield over recent matches. They do have the flair of Gaston Ramirez though. Also starting is Jay Rodriguez, who has been given the chance to impress up front alongside Rickie Lambert.

As for Villa, Christian Benteke has once again been preferred to Darren Bent in attack. They have scored just eight goals at home this season so it is a little bit of head scratcher as to why the England international is not included more often. Paul Lambert has also named a very young back four, which includes Enda Stevens.

Surely we will some goals today, won't we?! After all, Villa have conceded 41 this season - more than any other club in the Premier League. Southampton haven't been much better, having shipped just three less. I'll be amazed if this is 0-0.

Right, the players are now out on the pitch. You can sense that this is a big match with so much riding on it. Should Villa lose, you'd have to fear for Paul Lambert's future as manager. They've been in awful form recently.

Here we go. Southampton, kicking from right to left, get this match at Villa started. It's going to be a nervy 90 minutes for both sets of supporters...

It's been a very positive and quick start from Southampton. Rodriguez in particular has looked sharp so far and he almost forced a mistake from Villa defender Ciaran Clark. Thankfully for the home team the Irishman managed to find a way out of trouble.

Villa respond with an attack of their own and a dangerous cross from Brett Holman somehow evades his teammates and is cleared by Yoshida. The way this match has started, you wouldn't have thought either was struggling at the bottom end of the table.

It's now Villa that are in the ascendancy following Southampton's positive start. Fabian Delph in particular has looked very promising in the home team's midfield. He's got forward well and provided support to Benteke.

One player that looks incredibly comfortable out there is Luke Shaw. He may only be 17, but the Southampton full-back looks at home in the Premier League. Without getting too carried away or putting too much pressure on young shoulders, he looks a real prospect and perhaps a future England international.

CHANCE! Rodriguez shows great pace down the right for Southampton as he hares away from the Villa defence. However, having got into the area, he looked to be caught in two minds and Clark is able to retreat and get a foot in before Brad Guzan collects.

After a very promising start, it's all gone a bit scrappy at Villa Park. Both teams are now looking a little nervy, presumably because they know that any mistake could prove to be extremely costly. Not just in this match, but in terms of their club's season.

Nice touch once again at Villa Park as both sets of supporters stand and applaud Stiliyan Petrov. The Villa captain has recently battled acute leukaemia and wears the number 19 on his back.

CHANCE! Rodriguez is playing very well for Southampton at the moment. On this occasion he got above his marker to meet a cross from Jason Puncheon, but the striker didn't make a clean enough connection and the ball skids wide of the target.

The good news for both of these teams is that Wigan Athletic, who are currently 18th and occupy the final spot in the relegation zone, have just fallen behind 1-0 at Fulham. If it stays that way, neither of these sides will drop into the bottom three.

CHANCE! The visiting Saints are now the dominant force. It's a rare shot from young Shaw, which goes a couple of yards wide of the target. Guzan wasn't sure though and scampered across his line to make sure that there was no danger.

CHANCE! Oh dear Puncheon. The Southampton winger showed clever feet to make the opportunity inside the Villa penalty area but his shot went high and wide of the target. Nigel Adkins will be desperate for his side to make the most of this dominant spell.

PENALTY TO SOUTHAMPTON!

GOAL! Villa 0-1 Southampton (Lambert, pen)

Southampton take the lead and they deserve to, but not in those circumstances. It was a blatant dive from Rodriguez, who hit the deck despite there being no contact from him and Enda Stevens. Credit to Lambert though, who sent Guzan the wrong way with his penalty. He has never missed a penalty for the Saints and you can see why. Big goal, but Villa will be fuming - and rightly so.

The Saints are playing some really good football at the moment. The likes of Puncheon and Rodriguez are causing all sorts of problems to the Villa rearguard. Another goal before the break and this could be over.

SAVE! What a player Shaw looks! He showed confidence a moment ago to cut in from the left and drill a shot at goal, which was saved by the legs of Guzan. Half-time cannot come soon enough for Villa.

We're going to have a minimum of one minute of stoppage time...

HALF-TIME: Villa 0-1 Southampton

Villa are jeered off at the break and in some ways you cannot blame their supporters. Yes they trail to a penalty that should never have been given, but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that their performance has been very, very poor. It's hard to recall Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc having to touch the ball.

In contrast, the Saints have played some really nice football along the floor at times. Puncheon and Rodriguez have looked dangerous and the presence of Lambert is always a threat. Also a special mention for Shaw, who has played well above his age of just 17.

Without sounding like the profit of doom, it's hard to see how Villa are going to stay in the Premier League at present. They've got a team that is far too inexperienced to cope with the demands of the top flight. Unless things change, and quick, they could very well be a Championship side next season. Of course, a turnaround victory here would help dramatically.

A quick look at the statistics shows that surprisingly Southampton have had just two shots on target. For all their domination, it certainly felt like they had worked Guzan more. Villa meanwhile have had three on target, but all have been from distance.

SUBSTITUTION: There's been a change at the break by Villa, who have switched Holman for Barry Bannan. Not sure if the Australian international is injured because he was one of Villa's brighter players.

We are back off and running at Villa Park. It's a big 45 minutes ahead for both of these teams...

It's been a slightly better start from Villa. They are keeping the ball a bit better and are at least making Southampton work hard to get the possession back.

SAVE! And now they've forced Boruc into action. Andreas Weimann is the player that had the shot from the edge of the area, but the Polish goalkeeper got down well to parry, before Yoshida cleared the danger.

SAVE AND A MISS! Now Villa are beginning to motor. Stevens draws a one-handed save from Boruc with a powerful drive, before Benteke somehow lifts the rebound over from just six yards out. At times he has been impressive this year, but he has missed some sitters as well!

This is much, much better from Villa. Whatever Lambert said at the break is working. They just need a goal now and had Benteke switched on his radar, they would have had one already.

SAVE! Southampton have woken up at last! Some neat football down the right ends up freeing Rodriguez, who drills straight at Guzan from the edge of the area. Meanwhile, up the other end Charles N'Zogbia's low effort is held by Boruc.

SUBSTITUTION: And that was N'Zogbia's last involvement this afternoon. The attacker has been replaced by Gabriel Agbonlahor.

To be fair to Southampton, they are now seeing much more of the ball. With Villa beginning to throw more men forward in search of an equaliser, it could provide the Saints with some chances to extend their lead further. It's turned into a really entertaining match.

OFF THE POST! And that nearly was the second for Southampton. Puncheon, who has been a menace throughout, cuts inside and drills in a shot from the edge of the area. Guzan is well beaten but Villa get lucky as the ball cannons to safety of the right post.

Both Agbonlahor and Bannan have changed this game since they came on for Villa. The pair are working extremely hard and have forced the opposition into making a couple of mistakes. It makes you wonder why neither of them started.

SUBSTITUTION: It's game over from Ramirez, who is replaced by the versatile Danny Fox. A sign that Southampton are going to be a little more cautious perhaps?

Bad news for Villa because Wigan have levelled it up at 1-1 against Fulham. If the scores stay like this, Villa will be in the drop zone.

SUBSTITUTION Final roll of the dice by Lambert as he brings on young striker Jordan Bowrey for Ashley Westwood. Can the summer signing from Chesterfield make himself a hero?

SUBSTITUTION: The impressive Puncheon will end the afternoon without a goal as he is replaced by former Villa midfielder Steven Davis.

We've just seen a massive scuffle between both sets of players following a challenge between Shaw and Stevens. Shaw is in obvious pain and has been stretchered off. Credit to Mark Halsey the referee because he didn't overreact and nobody was booked. That is a concern for Shaw though.

SUBSTITUTION: The injured Shaw, who played extremely well, has his place taken by Steve de Ridder.

SAVE! A smart stop by Boruc and at his near post sees him get down low to push clear a downward header from Benteke. Villa are really pushing hard for an equaliser now. It's going to be a nervy ending to this one.

OFF THE BAR! So close for Villa. Bannan whipped in a dangerous corner which was met by the head of Nathan Baker, but the centre-back only succeeded in crashing his headed effort against the bar. Close, but not close enough for the home team.

We've got at least five minutes of stoppage time to be played...

WHAT A MISS! Benteke is having a stinker - there's no better word for it! Boruc does well to deny Agbonlahor, but the rebound falls to Benteke, who has the goal at his mercy. The Belgian's shot is poor though and the ball drifts harmlessly over the bar.

Villa are running out of time. They have 60 seconds to find an equaliser...

FULL TIME: Villa 0-1 Southampton

More jeers at the final whistle from the Villa faithful. Their side really needed to win this one and yet they have come out of it with nothing. As a result, they drop into the relegation zone. It could be a long few months ahead.

Fair play to Southampton though. They try to play football the right way and got their rewards today. They also showed that they could defend adequately during the second half. It's a massive three points for the Saints.

That's all we have time for from Villa Park. Thanks for joining us this afternoon and be sure to look out for analysis of this encounter, which will be with shortly. Thanks again.

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Villa boss Paul Lambert watches on against Swansea on January 1, 2013
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