Aston Villa 3-1 Hull City: Villa have likely saved themselves (video)

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Had Hull won at Villa Park on Saturday, they’d have been safe – and Aston Villa would’ve been in serious trouble. Instead the hosts put in one of their most impressive home performances this season and, although they’re yet to be mathematically deemed safe, they almost certainly saved their season.

The game got off to a fantastic start for the hosts, who scored with less than a minute played. Despite what appeared to be a defensive setup from Paul Lambert, Villa were off and running from the start. Gabby Agbonlahor burst down the left, putting in a cross that fell perfectly to Marc Albrighton. The wideman wiffed it, but Ashley Westwood was there to put in the goal.

Injury struck Agbonlahor once again, before thirty minutes were up. Lambert put on Jordan Bowery in his place, perhaps thinking him more experienced than U21 star Callum Robinson. Andi Weimann very nearly created a goal for Bowery minutes after his introduction, but the Austrian failed to get in the pass.

Villa were left ruing the missed opportunity when Hull equalized shortly thereafter. Ron Vlaar’s foul on Shane Long gave the visitors a free kick, which Tom Huddlestone took short. Liam Rosenior’s shot took a deflection off Bowery and landed in the back of the net.

The Tigers, knowing that a win would ensure their own safety, pressed on to find another goal. Brad Guzan did well to ensure his side stayed level, flying to his right to keep out a long-range effort from Huddlestone.

It took the hosts some time to regain their footing, but in the 39th minute, it was Steve Harper’s turn to take center stage. The Hull keeper made two fine saves in quick succession, first denying a shot from Weimann, then keeping out a strike from Bowery.

Villa continued to press forward. A series of corners saw two headers from Nathan Baker, the first blocked, the second saved by Harper. The third try was the charm: Weimann managed to put in his header, nudged in from close range.

The Austrian was determined to silence those who’d critiqued his performances this season, calling for him to be benched. In injury time, Weimann put in another, a sharp header into the bottom corner. Credit to Bowery, too, as his work down the left ensured Villa went into the break up 3-1.

Villa looked determined to close out their home games on a good note. Rather than allow Hull City back into the game, the hosts kept pressing, with Bowery making a convincing argument for more playing time. The forward, once again combining with Weimann, nearly added a fourth for Villa, but Harper managed to push his shot over the bar.

While Steve Bruce made an attempt to change up the visitors’ attack, replacing Nikica Jelavić with Yannick Sagbo, the Villa defense, surprisingly, held firm. Huddlestone forced a save from Guzan in the 75th minute, but that was about the last action seen in this one.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, Albrighton (El Ahmadi 76), Agbonlahor (Bowery 24), Weimann (Bacuna 82)

Goals: Westwood 1′; Weimann 41; 45+3′

Hull City: Rosenior, Figueroa, Chester (Bruce 43), Davies, Meyler (Quinn 45), Huddlestone, Livermore, Jelavic (Sagbo 69), Long, Elmohamady

Goals: Bowery o.g. 28′

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Aston Villa (Lineups and Discuss)

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With a win at Liberty Stadium, Swansea could clinch Premier League safety – but they’ll need to beat an Aston Villa side that’s also eager to avoid relegation (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Swansea, currently 13th, have 36 points from 35 games. If they collect all three points today, they could be on their way to a fourth season in the Premier League. However, they’ll also be paying special attention to Norwich’s trip to Old Trafford later in the day, as well as Fulham’s concurrent match with Hull City. Should Fulham lose or draw, and Manchester United emerge victorious, a Swansea win clinches safety for the Welsh side.

While Aston Villa are not the most threatening of opponents, desperation may make them formidable. For the fourth straight year, the Villa find themselves in a relegation battle. Paul Lambert’s men can take small comfort from the fact that they’re five points clear with a game in hand, but with their final two fixtures at Manchester City and at Tottenham, getting a result at Swansea looks vital.

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Lambert, apparently thrilled with the draw against Southampton that broke a four-game losing streak, has decided to name an unchanged side. The Villa coach knows that a draw more or less secures safety for his side, and it looks as though that’s what he’s determined to take from the Liberty. Brad Guzan starts in goal, while Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann attempt to make up for the loss of Christian Benteke up front.

Swansea were more successful last time out, coming back from a goal down to beat Newcastle 2-1. So there’s little surprise that Gary Monk, too, makes no changes to his lineup. Wilfried Bony, who scored both goals at St. James’ Park, starts up top, hoping to add to his total of 13 goals this Premier League season.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Vorm, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies, Britton, Shelvey, de Guzman, Hernandez, Routledge, Bony

Subs: Tremmel, Bartley, Taylor, Fulton, Emnes, Dyer, Vazquez

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Lowton, Clark, Holt, Robinson

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Southampton (Lineups and Discuss)

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After losing their last four in a row, Aston Villa are now exactly where they most didn’t want to be: back in the relegation battle. Will they manage a result against a Southampton side arriving at Villa Park with nothing to play for? (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The Saints have lost their last two, but that matters little. They’re safe, in eighth with 48 points, but are twelve points back of the last Europa League spot. At this point, it’s simply time to experiment with next season in mind – but with Mauricio Pochettino possibly on his way out, is there even much point?

Villa must look to take advantage of Southampton’s possible complacency. After notching exactly zero points in the last month, the hosts are down in fourteenth, just four points above the relegation zone. Now, fans are making their displeasure with Paul Lambert known, and the manager knows his side must put on a convincing home display if he doesn’t want to be shown the door come the end of the season.

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After using a 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 in the loss to Crystal Palace last weekend, Paul Lambert moves to what looks to be a 4-4-2 for this match. Grant Holt, who looked rather disappointing up top last time, gives way for Andi Weimann to pair with Gabby Agbonlahor, while Marc Albrighton comes in to give some pace out wide.

The visitors make four changes to the side that lost to Cardiff last time out. Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse and Victor Wanyama all get the nod – with Boruc’s return possibly the most significant.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Lowton, Clark, Holt, Robinson

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Wanyama, Lallana, Lambert

Subs: Cork, Do Prado, Chambers, Gazzaniga, Hooiveld, Reed, Gallagher

Paul Lambert: Villa have to stop the sequence of losing games

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Aston Villa lost their fourth straight on Saturday, falling to Crystal Palace thanks to a late goal from Jason Puncheon. The result leaves Villa in 14th, a mere four points above Fulham, who are in 18th after beating Norwich City.

The argument can be made that Villa have a game in hand, but considering that match involves Manchester City paying a visit to Villa Park, not many fans would consider that game a reason for optimism.

(READ MORE: CRYSTAL PALACE 1-0 ASTON VILLA)

Manager Paul Lambert, however, has still managed to defy the odds and sound optimistic in his post-match press conference. There’s no doom and gloom, nothing that resembles Cardiff’ City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s “it would take a miracle” quote of last week.

Instead the Villa gaffer pointed out that his side lost “by a fine margin” and that “it wasn’t for the lack of trying” that the team slipped. 

Lambert also pointed out that things could have been different had Julian Speroni not made a great stop to deny Andi Weimann near the end of the match. “Andi has done great to get the flick for the chance but their keeper has made a fine save. These are the sort of things that are going against us at the moment but you have to keep going.”

The Aston Villa boss remains positive about his side’s chances for avoiding relegation, saying “It is what it is at the moment. There are a lot of teams there and a lot of games to play. You have to get over that finishing line as quick as you can.”

It’s true that there are still six teams below Villa in the table. However, if the Lions can’t arrest their current slide, there’s no guaranteeing their safety. Lambert does have an element of control in stopping the “sequence of losing games,” and it’s Lambert who must do his part to buoy the boys for the run-in, making sure that their confidence returns and they’re able to pick up a few points.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa: Puncheon lifts his side once more (video)

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The two sides met at Selhurst Park even on points, but Crystal Palace emerge almost certain of safety, while results at the bottom mean Aston Villa are fearing relegation once more.

As was to be expected from a Tony Pulis side meeting a side set up defensively, there was very little action to be had in much of the match. In fact, by the break, Brad Guzan had needed to make just one save, while Villa hadn’t tested Julian Speroni at all.

It looked like Villa might be able to get something out of the match when Kagisho Dikgacoi went off injured. Pulis brought on Marouane Chamakh, pushing Joe Ledley into midfield and putting Chamakh just behind Cameron Jerome. The result was a rather disjointed Palace side.

Villa nearly took advantage of Palace’s inability to settle shortly after. Ciaran Clark got a touch on a corner from Ashley Westwood, but Jerome was there to clear the ball off the line.

Palace were able to work their way back into the game before the half had finished. The hosts’ best attempt came in the 41st minute, when Yannick Bolasie got on the end of a cross from Jason Puncheon. His header was rather tame, however, and Guzan had no trouble keeping it out.

Palace was again ready to cause trouble in the second half. Guzan was forced to push away a decent effort from Bolasie, but the ball fell to Jerome. The forward’s shot only rattled the bar, however.

At the hour mark, the lively Bolasie nearly got one past Guzan. His shot from 25 yards had the goalkeeper beaten, but Guzan was saved from embarrassment when the ball went just wide of the far post.

There was no one rescuing Guzan in the 76th, however, when Jason Puncheon put Crystal Palace up again. Last week’s hero netted his sixth of the season when he got on the end of a low ball from Bolasie to sweep home.

With less than fifteen minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a double switch, bringing on Andi Weimann for Karim El Ahmadi and Marc Albrighton for Ryan Bertrand.

The substitutions very nearly paid off. Speroni was forced into a fantastic save to keep out an effort from Weimann. In injury time, the Austrian set up a good chance for Ciaran Clark, while Joel Ward and Scott Dann combined to keep out an attempt by Ron Vlaar.

LINEUPS

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Chamakh 19), Jedinak, Bolasie (Parr 83), Puncheon, Ledley, Jerome (Murray 75)

Goals: Puncheon 76′

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, Bertrand (Albrighton 82), Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi (Weimann 82), Agbonlahor, Holt

Subs: Bennett, Weimann, Albrighton, Sylla, Bowery, Tonev, Steer