Southampton earned a vital three points as they overcame fellow English Premier League strugglers Aston Villa 1-0 on Saturday.
Defeat sees Villa plunge further into trouble following a disappointing display, but Southampton were deserving of their victory after producing a fine away performance.
Rickie Lambert netted the only goal of the encounter, striking from the spot in the 34th minute after the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty.
Aston Villa controlled most of the first half, with star striker Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia looking lively in the early stages.
It was Benteke who created the game’s first chance six minutes in, when he curled an effort just over from the edge of the area.
That proved to be the only real opportunity the home side enjoyed, and it was the visitors – who were always a danger on the counter-attack – that made the better opportunities, Jay Rodriguez, Lambert and Luke Shaw all going close for Nigel Adkins’ side.
Southampton were promptly rewarded for their dominance just over 10 minutes before the interval as Lambert stepped up to convert from the penalty spot after Enda Stevens was ruled to have fouled Rodriguez.
Replays suggested Stevens made no contact with Rodriguez.
Villa offered little response and Southampton went close to doubling their lead minutes later when Shaw strode past Matthew Lowton before seeing his powerful effort saved by Brad Guzan.
The hosts approached the second half with renewed energy and vigour, Lowton, Andreas Weimann and Benteke all having chances as Paul Lambert’s men desperately searched for an equaliser.
It was Southampton who always looked the more likely to score and they again went close to adding a second when Jason Puncheon crashed an effort against the post.
The visitors did suffer a blow when Shaw was stretchered off following a collision with Lowton, and that seemed to weaken Southampton defensively as Villa piled on the pressure in the closing stages.
Benteke headed over from point-blank range, before Nathan Baker headed against the bar from a corner.
Despite all of their possession and territory, Villa were unable to find a leveller as Southampton held on to earn a much-needed triumph.
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