Despite a second half revival that saw Aston Villa score three goals, a poor first half put the game to bed against the Saints.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to Villa Park hoping to make amends for the 3-0 loss against Leeds United suffered last week.
The Saints started the better of the two sides, and won an early corner as Tyrone Mings was forced to head away.
Southampton thought they’d picked up an early goal within the first four minutes as Ezri Konsa’s fumbled clearance of a corner deflected into the net – but the goal was disallowed by VAR as Che Adams was called offside.
Theo Walcott also had a chance from a counter-attack, but the winger’s shot clipped the bar and bounced over.
Aston Villa’s first chance of the afternoon came as the ball was worked to Jack Grealish in the box, before he turned and fired towards the far corner. His shot was deflected wide for a corner.
James Ward-Prowse was booked in the 12th minute for a foul on Bertrand Traore who was racing towards the Southampton box. The resulting free-kick from Ross Barkley hit the wall and bounced over for a corner.
Southampton took the lead just before the 20th minute mark. Matt Targett conceded a free-kick out wide which was swung into the box by Ward-Prowse, where Vestergaard was waiting to jump above John McGinn to fire his header into the far-right corner of the net.
Aston Villa were forced into an early change in the 29th minute, as Bertrand Traore looked to pull something before putting the ball out of play. Trezeguet replaced the Burkinabe winger.
Douglas Luiz conceded a free-kick in the 32nd minute around 20 yards away from goal – a poor decision with Ward-Prowse on the pitch for Southampton. The midfielder struck the ball with venom into the top left corner, past the diving Martinez and put Southampton two goals ahead.
Matty Cash was booked for a handball on the edge of his own box a few minutes before half-time, allowing Ward-Prowse another opportunity to strike a free-kick towards goal – albeit from a closer position. A more difficult free-kick, but it didn’t phase the midfielder who fired into the net once more.
There were two minutes added at the end of the half as Aston Villa trailed by three.
In the second half, Aston Villa continued to look passive – but it was Southampton’s keeper McCarthy that was forced into being the busiest of the two keepers. Within the space of a minute just after the 50th, McCarthy was forced into saving a diving header from Trezeguet and another header from Grealish just ten seconds later.
In the 58th minute, Danny Ings struck the killing blow. The striker found himself open on the left, before he put himself on his strong foot and fired into the top right-corner of the net.
Just after the hour mark, and Aston Villa pulled one back. Jack Grealish chipped a ball into a central area where Tyrone Mings waited to rise the highest and head into the net past McCarthy.
Six minutes later and Aston Villa made their second change of the game, replacing Matty Cash with Ahmed Elmohamady.
Trezeguet had another exceptional opportunity just before the 70th, as the Egyptian chested the ball down from Targett’s cross before getting his strike away – which was blocked well by the first goal scorer Vestergaard. He had a similar opportunity a minute later that was saved comfortably by McCarthy.
Danny Ings had the ball in the net again for Southampton in the 72nd minute, but the flag was raised, and rightly so, with the England international evidently offside.
McCarthy made another fine save with ten minutes remaining to stop Mings from bagging a brace.
Danny Ings was replaced by Shane Long with five minutes remaining after the forward picked up a knock.
Aston Villa were awarded a penalty in the 92nd minute, the second of the six that were added on as Grealish was downed in the box. Ollie Watkins stepped up for the penalty and slotted it into the top right corner of the net – but it was too late.
As the game trickled towards a conclusion, Douglas Luiz found Jack Grealish on the left, before the captain cut onto his right foot and buried an outrageous attempt from the left-corner of the box into the bottom left.