Southampton lost their unbeaten home record in a five-goal game at St Mary’s on Wednesday evening.
Saints had only conceded two goals on home soil in the league prior to this game, but were stung by three efforts against the run of play which left them reeling as they surrendered their unblemished record in unfortunate circumstances.
The hosts trailed 1-0 at half-time to Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 16th minute strike when the Villa forward ran from inside his own half to see off the advances of Dejan Lovren and Paulo Gazzaniga to finish from close range.
It took just three minutes for Jay Rodriguez to draw Saints level after the restart, but the home side were stung again when Libor Kozak headed in Karim El Ahmadi’s right wing cross to restore the Villans’ lead.
That advantage lasted for six minutes this time as first half substitute Dani Osvaldo levelled up with a neat header from Rickie Lambert’s nod back across goal, but Villa’s win was sealed by an emphatic wonder strike from Fabian Delph. The Villa midfielder unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top left of Gazzaniga’s net to seal a 3-2 result and inflict a third successive defeat on Saints, something which had previously not occurred under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
With Artur Boruc missing with a hand injury, Gazzaniga made his first start since a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool in December 2012. The goalkeeper was one of four changes made by Pochettino from the team that began against Chelsea.
Morgan Schneiderlin was also ruled out with injury, so the three other changes saw Steven Davis, Rickie Lambert, and Maya Yoshida all come into the side, with Jose Fonte and Dani Osvaldo dropping to the bench.
This was Yoshida’s first league match of the campaign, with his last Premier League game coming in April - a 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at St Mary’s.
Villa made two changes with last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke on the bench and replaced by Libor Kozak. Nathan Baker came into the team in place of Andreas Weimann, as the visitors lined up in a 3-5-2 formation.
It was Villa who got the game underway, lining up in their changed strip of claret and white checked shirts and claret shorts on a cool evening inside St Mary’s.
Yoshida received a comfortable first touch on the ball from kick-off, as he nodded the danger clear from an early long ball forward.
At the other end, Lallana warmed Villa ‘keeper Brad Guzan’s hands with an early test from the left flank, and moments later, the skipper was close to registering another shot on target when he collected Rickie Lambert’s well-weighted pass inside the area, only for Villa defender Ciaran Clark to put in a last-ditch challenge on him as he went to pull the trigger.
Lallana then dinked the crossbar with an ambitious effort from the left again which bamboozled Guzan, but fortunately for the American, he wasn’t embarrassed as the ball bounced back into play.
The open nature of the game continued when Gabriel Agbonlahor ventured down the left to win his side a corner, but nothing came from it.
Saints won a corner of their own in the tenth minute when Lallana - this time on the right – got the better of Antonio Luna to force the set-piece, but again the dead ball didn’t materialise a chance.
There was a contentious moment a couple of minutes later when Rodriguez charged down at Guzan’s goal as the ‘keeper rushed out to the right side of his area. Having tried and failed to gather the ball inside the box, there was a shout that Guzan had carried it outside of the area, but referee Jon Moss saw no infringement.
The pressure continued to build from the hosts when Rodriguez struck the post from range. So it was somewhat against the run of play when Villa took the lead in the 16th minute.
A cute through-ball from Fabian Delph inside his own half, released AGBONLAHOR into the final third past Yoshida. The frontman then cut inside the on-coming sliding challenge from Dejan Lovren before dinking the ball past the stranded Gazzaniga for 1-0.
The goal gave the opponents a clear lift in their approach and they sought an extension to their lead by getting the ball forward quicker. They created another chance from a corner as captain Ron Vlaar headed wide in the 22nd minute, leaving Saints to weather a brief storm from the visitors.
Saints worked Guzan again the 27th minute when a terrific cross from Clyne found Rodriguez, whose header was clawed away by Guzan and out for another corner to the hosts. From the resulting set-piece, Lovren went close to levelling with a header from close range, but the crowd of bodies in front of him blocked the effort from troubling the back of the net.
On the half hour, another opportunity arose form a corner for Saints, but again they were unable to make the most of it, with the ball eventually coming back to Rodriguez on the edge of the area, but he scuffed his effort over the bar.
An incisive piece of play from Saints in the 33rd minute resulted in a corner that was played short to Luke Shaw who fired in a rising shot at Guzan, which the goalkeeper managed to get his body behind to make a relatively comfortable save.
The combination of Shaw and a drag back from Lallana led to Steven Davis shooting over from distance. As a result of the missed chances, including a low ball from Rodriguez across goal that missed everyone, Mauricio Pochettino acted by bringing on Dani Osvaldo for James Ward-Prowse with seven minutes of the half still to play.
Saints looked to take full advantage of the momentum carried by Osvaldo’s introduction, as they started to reassert their dominance through midfield for the remainder of the half, but there were no further chances before the break as Villa held the slender advantage going into the break.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 0-1 ASTON VILLA
Both teams made a change at the break with Saints bringing on Jack Cork for Victor Wanyama in midfield. Villa, meanwhile, withdrew captain Vlaar in favour of former Sheffield United man Matthew Lowton.
The visitors created the first opening of the new half too, when Karim El Ahmadi raced towards the Northam end where he broke into the box on the right and fired low across the goalmouth, as Saints survived an early scare.
They needn’t have worried too much though, as with 48 minute son the watch, the hosts drew level. An inch-perfect cross from Clyne on the right found RODRIGUEZ inside the area, who planted a header into the bottom left corner for his sixth goal of the season, with an effort that gave Guzan no chance of saving.
Villa almost responded immediately, as the pulsating start to the second period continued, but a vital toe-end to El Ahmadi’s pass into the area, prevented another shot on Gazzaniga’s goal.
A couple of ambitious free-kicks from the hosts inside Villa’s half came to nothing, but Saints were much brighter as they looked to put themselves in front.
However, Saints were forced into their third change before the hour, when Clyne limped out of the action, with the full back replaced by Jose Fonte, a move which saw the host go with three defenders at the back, with Cork sat in front of them.
Lallana’s short pass into Osvaldo was almost turned home in outrageous fashion as the Italian attempted a back-heel from eight yards out, but Guzan got down to his left to keep the effort out.
A blast over the bar by Lambert summed up Saints’ frustrations in front of goal, but there was more disappointment to come when Villa retook the lead, and against the run of play again.
El Ahmadi’s cross from the right touchline was met by the head of Libor KOZAK whose effort went through the hands of Gazzaniga and into the net for 2-1 on 63 minutes
Surprisingly, goal scorer Kozak then went off to be replaced by Christian Benteke, who was without a goal in the seven matches prior to this game. The Belgian striker instantly went for goal with his first touch, but blazed well over Gazzaniga’s bar.
Saints restored parity for the second time though shortly after Osvaldo had gone for goal from Rodriguez’s cutback, only to see Guzan equal to it.
However, OSVALDO was not to be denied his second goal in Saints colours for too long as he nodded in Lambert’s header back across goal from six yards out on 69 minutes.
Rodriguez almost notched his second header of the game in the 74th minute when he connected to Lallana’s cross from the left, but Guzan just about managed to scramble across and put the ball out for a corner at his near post.
Saints turned the screw and got another shot away when Steven Davis got the better of Luna to cross for Osvaldo, whose first time strike flew over the bar.
For the third time in the game, Saints were struck by a bolt from the blue, when Villa won possession in midfield and subsequently gave chase through the middle. Agbonlahor led the charge and sprinted clear to lay the ball into DELPH, who hit an unstoppable strike into the top left corner for 3-2 with ten minutes remaining.
Jose Fonte was booked for a foul on Benteke in Villa’s half, with Saints now facing their biggest battle of the 90 minutes to take something from the game.
Their searched carried on, with Cork and Rodriguez linking up for the latter to shoot over, before Villa started in their quest to run the clock down by making their final substitution of the night on 86 minutes when El Ahmadi was replaced by Andreas Weimann.
The slow play out from Guzan assisted that cause, but not for too long, as Cork forced a corner before Lambert won a free-kick on the edge of the area to give Saints another opportunity at goal.
Lambert’s effort from the set-piece came off the back of Delph, but with five players now in the Saints forward line, the hosts threw everything at the Villans during the five minutes of stoppages.
But, the closest Saints came to troubling Guzan was a deflected strike from Lambert which went out for a corner.
Weimann was cautioned late on for a terrible challenge on Shaw, and both Osvaldo and Lambert also went into the book before the referee drew the contest to a close as Saints lost for the first time at home this season.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-3 ASTON VILLA
Southampton team: Paulo Gazzaniga, Nathaniel Clyne (Jose Fonte 59), Maya Yoshida, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Victor Wanyama (Jack Cork 46), Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse (Dani Osvaldo 38), Adam Lallana (c), Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Cody Cropper, Calum Chambers, Jos Hooiveld, Sam Gallagher
Goals: Rodriguez 48, Osvaldo 69
Aston Villa team: Brad Guzan, Leandro Bacuna, Ron Vlaar (c) (Matthew Lowton 46), Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker, Antonio Luna, Karim El Ahmadi (Andreas Weimann 86), Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Libor Kozak (Christian Benteke 64)
Unused substitutes: Jed Steer, Marc Albrighton, Yacouba Sylla, Aleksander Tonev
Goals: Agbonlahor 16, Kozak 63, Delph 80
Referee: Jon Moss