Match report: Villa 0-1 Southampton
A controversial penalty sent Villa into the bottom three as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat by Southampton.
Saints skipper Rickie Lambert converted the spot kick on 34 minutes after Enda Stevens was harshly adjudged to have brought down Jay Rodriguez when there appeared to be no contact.
A spirited finale by Paul Lambert's men saw them go close to an equaliser on a number of occasions but they were denied by poor finishing and some fine saves by keeper Artur Boruc.
Fit-again Brett Holman was at the heart of Villa's early threat, the Aussie midfielder's brilliant flick setting up Christian Benteke for a powerful 20-yard drive which went for a corner off Jos Hooiveld.
When the flag kick was only partially cleared, Benteke sidestepped Hooiveld to unleash a rising drive which wasn't far over.
But Southampton have become a resilient outfit over the past couple of months and they responded with a forceful run down the right by Rodriguez, whose low cross evaded Brad Guzan.
There was relief in the home camp when Ciaran Clark's clearance went straight into the keeper's arms.
Another menacing Saints attack down the right saw Rodriguez meet Jason Puncheon's cross with a glancing header which drifted wide of the far post before Luke Shaw fired wide with an angled effort from beyond the left-hand edge of the penalty area.
Villa had lost some of their early momentum, and although Charles N'Zogbia's 32nd-minute drive deflected wide, the visitors were ahead two minutes later.
The home side were guilty of some slipshod defending before Stevens was adjudged to have brought down Rodriguez.
It looked a harsh decision as there appeared to be no contact but Lambert sent Guzan the wrong way from the penalty spot.
As Villa went in search of a quick equaliser, Holman's deflected shot was only narrowly wide as keeper Boruc scrambled across his line, although the visitors were equally dangerous with a powerful run and cross by Shaw, the ball bouncing off Guzan's legs and behind for a corner.
A forceful start to the second half saw Andi Weimann make a determined run before hitting a low shot which was straight at Boruc, but the former Celtic keeper made a much more impressive save when he tipped away a stinging drive from Stevens.
Benteke looked a certain scorer from the rebound, only to put his close-range volley over the bar.
Approaching the hour mark, Guzan did well to clutch a well-struck low shot from Rodriguez before Villa swept straight to the other end for N'Zogbia to fire a low left-footer which Boruc held competently.
After a Puncheon shot had hit the foot of a post, Benteke twice worked hisway into good positions, first with his left foot, then his right, only for both efforts to fly over the bar. Benteke then had a header held by Boruc, and in the 87th minute the keeper clawed away another header from the Belgium international before Nathan Baker sent a header thudding against the bar from Barry Bannan's corner.
Jordan Bowery also had a shot deflected for corner while Benteke was off target after Boruc had saved at Gabby Agbonlahor's feet.
Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Clark, Baker, Stevens; Westwood (Bowery 78), Delph; N'Zogbia (Agbonlahor 62), Holman (Bannan HT), Weimann; Benteke. Unused subs: Marshall, Vlaar, Ireland, Lichaj.
Southampton: Boruc; Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw (De Ridder 87); Puncheon (S Davies 82), Cork, Schneiderlin, Lambert, Ramirez (Fox 76); Rodriguez. Unused subs: K Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lee, Seaborne.