JACOB RAMSEY nabbed the crucial goal that eased the pressure on Steven Gerrard and sent Villa feeling much better going into the international break.
The real heroes were found further back, however, as the much-maligned defensive duo of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa stood their ground to secure their first goal in a dozen attempts.
Gerrard’s previously weak defense did not budge on a tense night that ended Villa’s worst streak of conceding in consecutive games in nine years to build on their morale-boosting draw with Man City.
It might not be sexy – but it’s a solid start on the road to recovery as Gerrard’s men pulled out of the lower reaches to finish the night in 13th place.
The Saints threw everything at them – including goaltender Gavin Bazunu – in a frantic final in which Stuart Armstrong missed a header by inches.
But the relief on Gerrard’s face was clear as he slapped his full-time No.2 Gary McAllister on the back.
Villa fans couldn’t hold a candlelight vigil for Queen Elizabeth II.
They did their best, however, as Villa Park’s lights dimmed and thousands held up their phones and flicked on their flashlights during the minute’s silence before the game in a modern-day tribute.
At every corner of the subdued floor, images of the Queen appeared in stark black and white on Villa’s huge scoreboards.
“God save the King” then rang out at the famous old ground where Villa’s most famous supporter, Prince William, has often taken his place among home fans.
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If that was a classy moment, it soon gave way to something less than inspirational football as two nervous-looking teams tested each other without producing much goal-scoring action.
Perhaps their reputation preceded them.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints arrived in the Midlands after 12 games without conceding.
Villa couldn’t giggle as Steve Gerrard’s fighters were just one down on the 11th.
It always seemed safe to assume that the two Premier League clubs least likely to keep the door shut would throw a goal fest on Friday night.
Against the odds, both defenses mostly prevailed in the first half as they threw themselves in front of the ball to block shots and generally did the job they were well paid for.
Luckily it couldn’t last.
And it was the much-maligned Philippe Coutinho who provided the necessary touch of mischief to lighten this bitter fight and bring the game to life.
Steven Gerrard has been criticized for being too loyal to his former team-mate, who had tried the home fans’ patience by scoring just one goal and failing to provide an assist in his last 17 Premier games.
But it was the Brazilian who started cracking with a sudden 180-degree turn after 34 minutes, making James Ward-Prowse dizzy before firing a shot over the goal.
That artistry lifted the home support and Coutinho’s spirits as he almost ended the stalemate four minutes before the break.
Ashley Young’s deep cross dodged past Ollie Watkins and his marker and Coutinho snuck in to blitz a header on goal that Gavin Bazunu parried.
From the corner, Coutinho scored a brief one-two with Lucas Digne and then selected Watkins, who returned a header.
Bazunu reacted instinctively and pushed it onto his crossbar, but Jacob Ramsey reacted first to volley home the rebound from close range.
Villa fans waited anxiously while VAR searched in vain for a stray toe or torso that would have ruled it out – but to Ramsey’s relief there was no offense and his goal stood.
Villa’s joy was temporarily dampened when midfielder Boubacar Kamara limped off to be replaced by Douglas Luiz.
However, the Brazilian corner king could have slammed through almost immediately.
Douglas Luiz, who had just scored straight from flag-kicks against Bolton and Arsenal, almost added a third with a stunning performance that saw Bazunu frantically safe under his crossbar.
Bailey then fired a deflected shot just wide, prompting Hasenhuttl to make a double at half-time when he sent on Juan Larios and Joe Aribo for Romain Perraud and Ibrahima Diallo.
Villa were in no mood to mess around and there were deserved bookings either side of the break for Coutinho and then Ramsey for cynical trips against breaking Saints players.
Unfortunately, the action was similarly ugly as both sides struggled to create a clear chance until Saints’ late push was resisted.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6239646/aston-villa-1-southampton-0-jacob-ramsey/ Aston Villa 1 Southampton 0: Jacob Ramsey’s gruff strike gives Steven Gerrard’s Villa their first win in five Prem games