Aston Villa are all but relegated from the Premier League after losing 2-1 at home to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
Crystal Palace’s 1-0 victory over Villa’s relegation rivals Norwich City means Eric Black’s side can still mathematically survive, but they showed few signs of fight as they were beaten by goals from Steve Cook and Joshua King.
Villa – who are one of seven teams to have played in every Premier League campaign – struggled to give those inside Villa Park any sense of optimism, and eventually Bournemouth pounced.
Cook’s deft flick put the visitors ahead before the break, and King added a second with 16 minutes to play. Jordan Ayew scored a late consolation, but it did little to lift a toxic atmosphere inside much of Villa Park.
Victory took Bournemouth past the 40-point barrier for the season, allowing Eddie Howe to plan a second campaign in the top flight for many onlookers’ pre-season relegation favourites, with Callum Wilson’s first appearance since September further boosting the Cherries late in the game.
As the home fans inside a sparsely populated Villa Park expressed their anger at the club’s plight, Bournemouth started well.
Poor defending – after a back heel from Max Gradel – allowed Lewis Grabban to race towards goal after five minutes, but his low shot was well saved by Brad Guzan.
Villa made five changes from their 4-0 hammering by Chelsea but offered little in attack as the visitors began to dictate the tempo, and Dan Gosling fired another opening agonisingly wide.
The best Villa could muster came in the form of audacious attempts from Ashley Westwood and Kieran Richardson, both midfielders blazing over the crossbar from 18 yards.
Eventually Bournemouth found a way through on the brink of half-time, Simon Francis finding space after Matt Ritchie’s back heel to deliver a low cross that the unmarked Cook flicked beyond Guzan from five yards.
In stark contrast to the first half, the atmosphere inside Villa Park changed after the break as the home fans threw support behind their beleaguered club.
Richardson should have rewarded them on the hour but, from six yards, he failed to get anything on Ayew’s superb low cross.
Bournemouth’s second goal came after 74 minutes as more woeful defending from the hosts gifted King his fifth of the season, the striker pouncing after Ciaran Clark failed to control Aly Cissokho’s pass.
The second goal soured the atmosphere once again but Ayew gave Villa’s beleaguered fans something to cheer with a fine late strike, the forward holding off three defenders to beat Artur Boruc.
It was scant consolation, though, as Villa slipped to the brink of relegation with an eighth defeat in a row.
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