BIRMINGHAM, England (AP)Aston Villa further eased the pressure on manager Steven Gerrard with a scrappy 1-0 win over Southampton in the English Premier League earned by Jacob Ramsey’s 41st-minute goal on Friday.
The midfielder’s first goal of the season lifted Villa to 13th place – tied on points with the visitors – with a victory that built on its battling point against Manchester City two weeks ago.
In between, the league paused following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and there were tributes to the late monarch before the game.
It was a forgettable game between two teams still searching for a consistent identity.
Southampton slipped to a third defeat in four games to leave legitimate questions over the future of manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Villa’s performance was workmanlike and far from fluid, in reality doing little to ease long-term fears of the team’s direction in the league under Gerrard.
Fourth from the bottom at kickoff, Villa had won just one of its previous 10 league games and, in truth, did little to suggest it would improve that record for the majority of the first half.
It took 34 minutes for Philippe Coutinho, who had scored just once and failed to provide an assist since March, to create a rare chance when he spun away from James Ward-Prowse and drilled over.
Villa snatched the lead when a corner was played short to Coutinho and his cross found Ollie Watkins, whose header was turned onto the bar by Gavin Bazunu. Southampton failed to clear the looping ball and Ramsey smashed in from five meters.
Energized, Villa pushed for a second with Leon Bailey’s shot deflecting wide and Douglas Luiz’s corner turned over by Bazunu.
Southampton never threatened, leaving Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez untroubled and allowing Villa to comfortably hold its lead.
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