Aston Villa were beaten by fellow Premier League strugglers Bournemouth 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium as Mbwana Samatta opened his account for the club.
Villa travelled to the south coast having secured their place in the Carabao Cup final – but their attention was swiftly changed to Premier League survival at the Vitality and right now guessing who will survive is like having a go on the Starburst slot.
Bournemouth beat Villa 2-1 at Villa Park in the second game of the season, but since then Eddie Howe’s side have found form hard to come by.
Villa won all three points against Watford in the last minute two weeks ago, but in this Premier League season, away results for Villa haven’t faired too well.
Phillip Billing’s and Nathan Ake’s goals before half time was all it took for the Cherries to condemn Villa to their first loss since the start of January.
Tanzania’s first Premier League player – Mbwana Samatta – did half the away side’s deficit by heading past Aaron Ramsdale twenty minutes before full-time – the first headed goal scored by Villa this season.
Jefferson Lerma’s second booking of the game handed Villa a numerical advantage, but just as they did against West Ham, Watford and Arsenal, Smith’s team failed to make it count.
It was a typical first half from Villa’s perspective. Having conceded a joint league-high 37 goals this term, Smith’s side found themselves two down after firstly Billing claimed his first Bournemouth goal, and then Ake doubled the lead.
It was Simon Francis’ searching cross that found Dan Gosling at the far post who nodded down for Billing to strike a controlled finish beyond Pepe Reina in the Villa goal.
Reina replaced Orjan Nyland after the Norwegian impressed in Villa’s mid-week win over Leicester City in the cup, but the Spaniard would be picking the ball out of his net for a second time before the interval.
After initially denying Ryan Fraser from long-range, Ake was first to the loose ball in the box – duly converting past Reina as if he had the reactions of a striker. Ake would however learn all about such predatory instincts later in the game.
Samatta, on his top-flight debut, put Villa back on track for a point. Jack Grealish passed the ball into Keinan Davis’ path before the striker aimed for goal.
With a looping deflection taking the ball away from Ramsdale’s goal, Samatta’s bravery was rewarded as he claimed his first goal for the club.
Villa went in search of a late leveller but found little reward for their efforts. After a winter break, Villa host Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park.