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A miserable week for all those in claret and blue continued, as a penalty that never was, along with countless dodgy decisions, saw Villa plummet back into the danger zone.

Benteke began brightly and had a shot blocked by Hoovield before inching the ball over the bar from the edge of the box. Villa were then almost caught on the counter when Lambert found Rodriguez with acres of space. Rodriguez slid the ball across Guzan and it was left to Clark to clear it.

A header from Puncheon allowed Rodriguez another shot on goal but he headed just wide of the far post.

Guzan was soon seen scrambling after a powerful low shot from Shaw but, thankfully, it too was wide.

Puncheon then shot over the bar before Villa Park erupted in outrage when Mark Halsey awarded a penalty to the visitors after Rodriguez went to ground just inside the box, even though Stevens had made no contact with him. The protests fell on deaf ears and Rickie Lambert found the back of the net from the spot, having sent Guzan the wrong way.

Although Villa were very poor, it was a harsh decision and they remained vulnerable on the counter-attack for the remainder of the first half.

Holman was replaced by Bannan for the start of the second half and Villa began to improve. Weimann forced Boruc to parry his left-footed shot and Benteke shot over the bar.

The Saints remained dangerous and Clark made another great tackle to stop the advancing Rodriguez.

Puncheon’s drive then hit the woodwork.

Villa rallied in the final ten minutes but, as on Tuesday, the ball refused to find the net. Benteke’s header was kept out by Boruc and a powerful header from Baker thudded off the woodwork just as Villa looked set to level. Boruc then saved at Agbonlahor’s feet and Benteke shot wide – but it was all in vain and all three points went to Southampton, adding to Villa’s worries.

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