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PUBLISHED
16:50 19th April 2014

REPORT: Aston Villa 0-0 Saints

Saints took a point away from Villa Park in a tepid goalless draw between the two teams.

A game of few clear chances meant that the stalemate was probably a fair result, as neither side could quite do enough for a win.

The match which was of vital importance to the hosts seemed to take its toll on a Villa team in desperate need of a goal to get themselves going, but their best efforts failed to really trouble the returning Artur Boruc.

Saints created plenty of openings, with the best of their chances falling to Steven Davis in the first half, but he was thwarted by Brad Guzan. Adam Lallana central to much of the visitors’ play in the second 45, whilst Mauricio Pochettino’s men perhaps wrongfully denied a penalty in the last ten minutes when Nathaniel Clyne’s cross was handled.

The point takes Saints to 49 for the season, and keeps them above Newcastle in the Barclays Premier League table.

Mauricio Pochettino made four changes to his side as Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Victor Wanyama, and James Ward-Prowse all returned to the starting line-up for the visitors from the team that lost to Cardiff.

Saints got the game underway with Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert taking the first touches on halfway with the visitors lining up in their changed strip of black shirts and white shorts, attacking the famous Holte End.

It was a composed start by Pochettino’s men who moved the ball around with a series of swift passes and willing running down both flanks.

Lallana offered a glimpse of his threat to the hosts when he tricked his way through the middle, where he was tripped by Villa’s Ashley Westwood as the hosts’ midfield struggled to get a foothold on the game.

Saints followed up their early intensity with a run from Luke Shaw, who got to the byline to deliver a cross which was met by Lambert’s near post header, but it was easy for Brad Guzan to gather in the Villa goal.

From a similar position on six minutes Steven Davis sent a low cross into the area which was shot towards goal by Lambert, but took a nick off Nathan Baker out for a corner, where the waves of initial pressure continued.

Villa’s outlet of Agbonlahor running down the centre was met by a long raking pass, but the not quite so easy-on-the-eye approach failed to forge an opening for the hosts, who struggled to make an impact in front of their own supporters.

They did manager a better effort in the eleventh minute when Andreas Weimann linked up with Agbonlahor, and was inches away from converting the latter’s cutback across goal, but Saints quickly cleared up the danger.

Buoyed by those openings, Villa began to come out of their shell, with full back Ryan Bertrand bombing forward to send a dangerous looking cross in towards Karim El Ahmadi, but Dejan Lovren put his head on the line to clear the ball, taking a knock to the face for his trouble.

The game broke out into more of a midfield battle from then on, with Steven Davis making his presence felt against his former side as the hosts reverted back to a compact shape in order to quell the fluid movement of Saints.

A neat move which started from Schneiderlin’s clever pass into the path of Lallana, almost set the visitors through on goal again, but the skipper intelligently held his pass up for the Frenchman to get back on the end the break, only for Villa’s defence to rally around and close down the shooting opportunity that had opened up.

Two further good chances arrived for the visitors from crosses on the half hour. Shaw’s delivery towards Lambert cleared by Baker, but moments later, Lambert knocked down Ward-Prowse’s cross from the left to Davis, whose low shot was brilliantly saved by Guzan, as the keeper palmed the ball away with his outstretched arm.

On 38 Villa tested Saints again down the left when Bertrand crossed into the area where Jose Fonte made a vital header away to prevent another clear opportunity on Boruc’s goal.

Saints returned to the front foot in attack inside the last five minutes of the half, but a killer final ball remained elusive for the visitors, who lost some of their spark over the opening 45 minutes.

It was Villa who went on to apply the late pressure. A tricky cross from Bertrand was pushed away by Boruc at his near post for the first of two corners in stoppage time, which thankfully, came to nothing, despite El Ahamdi’s best attempts to convert with a lunge at the far post with the last kick of the half.

HALF-TIME: ASTON VILLA 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON

There were no changes from either side as the game restarted for the second period, where Villa sought to get out of the blocks quickly whilst they had the momentum of playing towards their supporters.

They created a decent chance for themselves too on 49 minutes when El Ahmadi brought the ball under control and onto his stronger foot, but his low shot was held by Boruc down to his right.

Boruc sliced a clearance which put Saints under more pressure soon after, but then the visitors got their act together with a few decent moves through midfield, which Lallana was central to.

The skipper then came close to getting his side’s best chance before the hour when Davis and Shaw combined down the left with the latter crossing dangerously into the centre where Lallana was waiting, but the ball arrived just behind the Saints’ number 20 who took a knock in the process as he missed the delivery by a matter of inches.

A terrific link up of one touch passes almost played Lallana in again with Schneiderlin and Lambert unlocking Villa’s backline, but the last ball was a fraction over-hit, denying the skipper a chance.

Lallana was again the target when Davis got into the box on the left and crossed for the midfielder, but another good block denied the Saints man. 

On 62 Villa were awarded a free-kick after Lovren had fouled Agbonlahor on the right flank, which the Saints defender was booked for. The resulting set piece was met by El Ahmadi, but ran straight off his leg and into Boruc’s arms.

The game opened out further, with Marc Albrghton stinging Boruc’s hands with a shot from range before Agbonlahor picked out Westwood for a drive from distance which flew wide.

Lallana put the ball in the net from an offside position, before Villa were awarded a free-kick when Shaw pulled down Weimann, something the full back was booked for.

On 67 minutes Ward-Prowse was replaced by Sam Gallagher in Saints’ first change of the match. Almost immediately Gallagher had a chance to score when Lambert drilled the ball into the area, but the youngster couldn’t quite reach the low cross which Guzan quickly got both hands to.

Gallagher remained the target for the visitors following his arrival onto the pitch which the striker close to getting on the end of Shaw’s cross, which was deflected out for a corner.

Saints turned the screw with Schneiderlin briefly joining the attack for a couple of moves, the former of which offered the most promise, but his cross was intercepted.

A tangle of legs involving Albrighton and Wanyama in the 75th minute saw the Saints midfielder come off worse, but the Kenyan was able to return to the action after receiving treatment to his left calf.

Saints put together a figure of passes which was easy to lose count of before they eventually worked the ball out to the right flank where Clyne’s cross appeared to strike an arm of a Villa defender inside the area. Despite the protests from the visitors, referee Lee Mason wasn’t interested, as Saints settled for a corner. 

With the hosts desperate for a spark, Grant Holt was introduced from the bench in place of El Ahmadi on 81 minutes, and Saints responded a couple of minutes later by bringing on Jack Cork in place of Wanyama.

Villa’s second change on 85 minutes saw Weimann go off and Callum Robinson replace him much to the delight of the home faithful, who had had little else to cheer all afternoon.

Robinson tried to stretch the Saints backline with his pace and strength, but he was generally well marshalled by Lovren, as the contest briefly came back to life inside the closing stages.

Harrison Reed made a late appearance from the bench in place of Lallana to be one of three teenagers on the pitch for Saints in the final few moments of play, but no further chances were created.

And, with no goals for either side though after three further minutes for stoppages, meant a draw was about right.

FULL-TIME: ASTON VILLA 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON

Aston Villa team: Brad Guzan, Leandro Bacuna, Ron Vlaar (c), Nathan Baker, Ryan Bertrand, Marc Albrighton, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi (Grant Holt 81), Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann (Callum Robinson 85)

Unused substitutes: Jed Steer, Yacouba Sylla, Aleksandar Tonev, Matt Lowton, Ciaran Clark.

Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Victor Wanyama (Jack Cork 83), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse (Sam Gallagher 67), Adam Lallana (c) (Harrison Reed 90), Rickie Lambert

Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Guly do Prado, Calum Chambers, Jos Hooiveld

Referee: Lee Mason

Attendance: 35,134

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    St Mary's has been home to Saints since 2001