Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa: Barkley header downs dominant Saints
(Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Southampton suffered another frustrating evening at home as a single first half strike was enough to earn visitors Aston Villa all three points at St. Mary’s.

Saints had the right to feel aggrieved by a number of controversial talking points, not least a contentious penalty decision, with VAR letting offender Matty Cash off the hook for what looked to be a definite handball.

Danny Ings then had the ball in the back of the net in the fourth minute of added time, but again VAR went against the hosts – with Ings judged to be offside by the finest of margins as Ross Barkley’s first half header proved the difference.

It means Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have collected three successive Premier League defeats for the first time this season, despite producing another bright display.

The Saints boss made three changes from the loss to Arsenal, bringing in Ryan Bertrand, Oriol Romeu and Nathan Redmond. James Ward-Prowse started at right-back, with Romeu partnering Ibahima Diallo in the centre of midfield.

Predictably, front foot football was the order of the day from both sides early on as Ollie Watkins dragged an effort wide of goal after good work from Barkley in the sixth minute.

VAR drama

The next attack came from the Saints, with Ward-Prowse finding Ings, who produced a great bit of play after lifting the ball over his head and his marker before pulling it back to Stuart Armstrong, with his goalbound shot blocked by the arm of Cash.

Unbelievably, Cash escaped punishment – with Mike Dean as VAR clearing the full back of any wrongdoing, despite the replays suggesting otherwise.

Everyone in a red shirt remained convinced that justice had not been served, and continued to pour forward in search of a breakthrough. Romeu tried his luck from distance before another move down the right offered Ings a brief sight of goal but Cash cleared.

Saints continued to look sharp on the ball and going forward. A quick free-kick routine from Bertrand found Armstrong, but Emiliano Martinez turned the ball away at his near post after a shot from a tight angle midway through the first half.

It was a dominant display from Saints, but no goal to show for it with the Villa defence showing their resilience, before they threatened themselves. Watkins was found by Jack Grealish in the box and after turning astutely to work a yard of space, Alex McCarthy denied his low drive from finding the net.

Villa strike

Saints continued to force the issue, but were dealt a sucker punch four minutes before the break. Grealish was played in behind Ward-Prowse down the left and lifted the ball in to the penalty spot where the onrushing Barkley found space to nod back across a helpless McCarthy to find the corner.

The home side pushed from the first kick of the restart. Redmond’s effort was blocked by Tyrone Mings before Ward-Prowse could only see a free kick go into the wall from a dangerous area.

Saints' injury woe

It appeared as if Southampton were down on their luck midway through the second period, losing both Diallo and Theo Walcott to injury in quick succession with Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams coming on in their place.

And Adams nearly made an instant impact in the 69th minute, latching onto a low pass from Ings, but he wasn’t able to beat Martinez when one on one with the former Arsenal stopper, who produced a fine save to his left.

The Saints weren’t short of attempts, and only some great defending kept them at bay six minutes from time. Jan Bednarek rose highest to a Ward-Prowse corner only for Martinez to save from point blank range, before Adams and then Jack Stephens were both denied on the follow up. With a flurry of chances coming and going, luck simply wasn’t with the home side.

Ings denied

And the game finished with another talking point as VAR fell in favour of Villa yet again. Ings had his equaliser chalked off in the dying stages, having showed good determination to fire home from Bertrand’s parried shot, but to no avail. The lines were drawn on the VAR monitor, and it was ruled that Ings’ sleeve had crossed it.

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