VAR a friend as Villa see off bogey-team Southampton.

VAR has not been an ally to Aston Villa, pretty much ever since its introduction at the beginning of last season. Tonight, it came to Aston Villa’s rescue with two close calls going in their favour.

Aston Villa had been without a win against Southampton since 2013 when goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Libor Kozak and a stunning strike from Fabian Delph, gave Paul Lambert’s men a 3-2 win. Villa fans would’ve begun to think the worst when at 7-minutes it appeared that Matty Cash handled the ball. A superb piece of trickery from Danny Ings carved a chance for Southampton, with Stuart Armstrong’s shot deflecting off Cash’s thigh before hitting his arm. This ruled out any potential penalty, keeping Villa in the game.

Southampton’s dominance continued throughout the first half though with Villa struggling to get a foothold and keep possession for a prolonged period. A driving run from Grealish down the left before delivering a cross that was just too high for Watkins, the only highlight.

After 35-minutes, Villa began to settle into the game with potentially the best chance in the game so far falling to Watkins. A pass in from Grealish was taken superbly by Watkins who dragged it onto his right foot before carving out an opening to have the shot. Unfortunately, right at Alex McCarthy.

Arguably against the run of play, the breakthrough eventually came with Targett playing a clever ball over the Saints defence to Grealish, whose cross this time found Barkley’s head for his third goal in a Villa shirt and giving Villa the lead.

This lead was almost immediately doubled when just a few moments after the restart, Barkley intercepted a pass before offloading it to Watkins. The striker struggled to get it onto his right foot again before eventually taking it on his left, straight into the arms of the keeper.

Villa looked a lot more composed in the second half and seemed to be in control of the game, significantly more than the first half. However, were few and far between for Villa with the best chances of the half going to the home side.

Martinez was called up to make some sensational saves to keep the game in Villa’s favour. Most notably against Che Adams and Jan Bednarek. Ings played a clever ball through to Adams who found himself on the other side of the Villa defence. Favouring a shot on his stronger right foot, his shot was saved at point-blank range from Martinez, before a scramble in the box eventually leading to the ball being cleared away.

The biggest scare for Villa fans came at the 93-minute when Danny Ings seemed to have equalised. The VAR lines came out, finding the Saint’s striker just offside.

Whilst Matty Cash claimed man of the match, Martinez could feel slightly disappointed for some of the crucial saves he made, ensuring the 3-points were going back to Villa Park.

Fans hoping to see new signing Morgan Sanson were forced to wait, with the only change Smith made coming in the 95-minute. Goalscorer, Ross Barkley, was taken off for a more defensive-minded Marvellous Nakamba. Smith showing again his reluctance to make changes.

Villa now sit 8th in the table, above Chelsea and Arsenal, having played fewer games. They now face visits from two London clubs with in-form West Ham and Arsenal in the next week.


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