TRAGIC: ASTON VILLA 2 – SOUTHAMPTON 4

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The Villans were not involved in any dragon slaying to honour Saint George, although there were plenty of tragic elements to their latest loss to mark the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The relegated hosts were jeered from the off and the atmosphere did not improve when Long hit the post in the game’s second minute following inept defending from Villa’s experienced duo of Richards and Lescott.

As the Saints continued to press, Bacuna headed Westwood’s cross wide and all Ayew could do was to hit the side netting.

Inevitably, Long opened the scoring after fifteen minutes, heading home a glorious cross from Bertrand, who had been afforded far too much time.

Four minutes later, Long had a goal ruled offside.

Westwood then shot straight at Forster.

It was Van Dijk’s turn to hit the post just after the thirty minute mark as paper planes came closer to the target than any Villa player.

Following a bizarre back pass by Bacuna, a racing Long left Lescott in his wake. Initially denied by Guzan, the striker had still set up a simple tap-in for Tadić in the thirty-ninth minute.

Westwood offered a glimmer of hope when he pulled one back in injury time, drilling in a loose ball to score his first goal for almost two years.

After the break, Toner replaced Richards.

Rodriguez’s early acrobatics, leading to a shot deflected off Lescott, showed how the second half was likely to pan out and the Villans were muted.

Guzan had to make a save to stop Long adding to his tally after fifty-six minutes then prevented Davis from scoring from a free-kick two minutes later.

When Gana lost the ball, Long was there to pounce and ensure that his side had its third goal of the afternoon. The Irishman held the ball up well and set up Tadić, who bagged his brace from the edge of the box.

With ten minutes remaining, Guzan’s error saw him spilling Cédric’s cross and gave Long yet another chance. However, he sent his shot well over the crossbar.

Westwood swept the ball into the net from fifteen yards out with five minutes remaining but it had the air of a consolation goal rather than the spark of a comeback.

The comeback never came and Mané put the game to bed in injury time as he headed Cédric’s cross in from close range.

Speaking post-match, caretaker manager Eric Black said:

“We created more chances. We had two or three chances and, if we’d taken them, we might have got something. But if we have to score five goals at home to win a game then we’re going to be in for a tough challenge. We did get a response under difficult circumstances but it wasn’t enough to win the game.

We conceded poor goals that put us on the back foot. There was a response – and credit for that – but on the day it wasn’t enough.

The fans are entitled to vent their displeasure. It’s not an ideal atmosphere but it’s understandable, given the circumstances. We have to continue to be professional.”

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