JACOB RAMSEY snatched the vital goal which eased the pressure on Steven Gerrard and sent Villa into the international break feeling a whole lot better about themselves.
However the real heroes were found further back as much maligned defensive duo Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa held firm to secure their first clean sheet in a dozen attempts.
Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey scored the only goal of the game against SouthamptonCredit: Reuters
Ramsey wheeled away in delight after firing in from close range in the 41st minuteCredit: Getty
Gerrard‘s previously brittle defence didn’t buckle on a tense night which ended Villa’s worst run of conceding in consecutive games for nine years, to build on their morale-boosting draw with Man City.
It may not be sexy – but it’s a solid start on the road to recovery as Gerrard’s men moved out of the lower reaches to finish the night in 13th.
Saints threw everything at them – including keeper Gavin Bazunu – in a frantic finale which saw Stuart Armstrong flash a header inches wide.
But the relief on Gerrard’s face was clear as he thumped his No.2 Gary McAllister’s back at full-time.
Villa‘s fans couldn’t hold a candlelit vigil for Queen Elizabeth II.
However they did their best as the Villa Park lights dimmed and thousands held up their mobile phones and flicked on their torches in a modern-day tribute during the pre-match minute’s silence.
In each corner of the hushed ground images of The Queen emerged in stark black and white on Villa’s giant scoreboards.
“God Save the King,” then rang out around the famous old ground where Villa’s most famous supporter Prince William has often taken his place among the home support.
If that was a moment of class it soon made way for some less than inspiring football as two nervous looking teams tested each other out without producing much in the way of goalmouth action.
Perhaps their reputation went before them.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints arrived in the Midlands on the back of a 12-match run without keeping a clean sheet.
Villa couldn’t snigger as Steve Gerrard’s strugglers were just one behind on 11.
It always seemed safe to assume that the two Premier League clubs least likely to keep the door shut would serve up a Friday night goalfest.
However, against the odds both defences came out comfortably on top for much of the first half as they hurled themselves in front of the ball to block shots and generally do the job they are handsomely paid for.
Thankfully, it couldn’t last.
And it was the much-maligned Philippe Coutinho who provided the touch of mischief needed to lighten this dour battle and spark the game to life.
Villa and Southampton paid their respect to Queen Elizabeth II prior to kick-offCredit: PA
Villa were fully deserving of the three points after limiting the Saints to just one shot on targetCredit: Reuters
Steven Gerrard has been criticised for remaining too loyal to his former teammate who had tested the patience of home fans by scoring just one goal and providing no assists in his past 17 Premier appearances.
But it was the Brazilian who started to make cracks appear after 34 minutes with a sudden 180 degree spin which left James Ward-Prowse dizzy before he rifled a shot over.
That piece of skill lifted the home support and Coutinho’s spirits because four minutes before the break he almost ended the stalemate.
Ashley Young’s deep cross evaded Ollie Watkins and his marker and Coutinho stole in to flash a header goalwards which Gavin Bazunu turned away.
From the corner Coutinho worked a short one-two with Lucas Digne then picked out Watkins who powered in a header.
Bazunu reacted instinctively to push it onto his bar however Jacob Ramsey was first to react to volley home the rebound from close range.
Villa’s fans faced an anxious wait while VAR searched in vain for a stray toe or torso which would have ruled it out – but to Ramsey’s relief there was no infringement and his goal stood.
Villa’s joy was temporarily dampened when midfielder Boubacar Kamara limped off to be replaced by Douglas Luiz.
Steven Gerrard’s side are up to 13th after picking up their second win in the top-flightCredit: Reuters
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men are in 12th spot after suffering back-to-back defeatsCredit: AP
However the Brazilian corner king almost made an instant impact.
Fresh from scoring direct from flag kicks against Bolton and Arsenal, Douglas Luiz almost added a third with a stunning delivery which Bazunu frantically clawed from under his bar to safety.
Bailey then flashed a deflected shot narrowly wide, causing Hasenhuttl to make a double substitution at the break as 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 then Ramsey for cynical trips on breaking Saints players.
Unfortunately the action was similarly ugly as both sides struggled to create any clear cut chance until Saints late push was resisted.
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