Sun on Sunday: Paul Lambert's season went from Brad to worse as Villa plunged into the bottom three in hugely controversial circumstances. Four days after being embarrassed 3-1 by League Two's Bradford in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final, they were sunk by a dodgy Southampton penalty. Jay Rodriguez was the Saint turned sinner at the centre of the latest cheat row after 'earning' the 34th-minute winner. Rickie Lambert stepped up to score from the spot as Southampton leapfrogged Villa up to 15th in the table. However, Rodriguez was the villain of the piece in the eyes of home fans after taking a tumble. TV evidence proved Aston Villa defender Enda Stevens made absolutely no contact with him — but ref Mark Halsey bought it.
Sunday Mirror: Desperate Villa sank deeper into trouble after Rickie Lambert's controversial penalty enabled a rejuvenated Southampton to complete the double over Paul Lambert's misfits. Saints hitman Lambert hammered home his spot kick after referee Mark Halsey judged that Enda Stevens' innocuous challenge on Jay Rodriguez was unfair. Even Saints boss Nigel Adkins said his side were lucky to be awarded the spot kick, admitting there was no contact on Jay Rodriguez by Villa defender Stevens. But now the pressure is really mounting on Villa boss Lambert, who again saw his side humbled just a few days after their defeat to Bradford in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg. Villa are now in the bottom three, having picked up just 10 points from their last 12 games. And in their last 38 games, they have amassed only 30 points.
Sunday Express: The agony and the concern continue to multiply for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert in a season fast heading towards crisis point. His side slumped into the relegation zone after another home defeat, inflicted by a controversial penalty for Southampton. And although the spirit and heart shown by his young players was there for all to see, so was an alarming lack of quality. If you could spare some sympathy for the young Villa braves on a frozen winter afternoon yesterday - and the home fans certainly did - the plain fact is that the Premier League table doesn't lie.
Observer: Paul Lambert may be feeling the pressure as his side slid into the Premier League relegation zone, but questions about the Aston Villa manager's immediate future were conveniently overshadowed by the latest in a series of "diving" controversies. Discussion about the safety of Lambert's tenure at Villa Park will have to wait for another day. Instead, Lambert chose to criticise Mark Halsey, the referee, for awarding Southampton a penalty that clearly was not in the 34th minute. Jay Rodriguez, the Southampton forward, fell in the home area, as Enda Stevens, the Villa left-back, prepared to challenge him. There was no contact - video replays confirmed that - but Halsey, a late replacement for flu victim Chris Foy, pointed to the spot. Rickie Lambert converted the 31st penalty of his career, from 31 attempts, and Villa were condemned to a place in the bottom three. "It was absolutely not a penalty," Lambert said.
Sunday Telegraph: Paul Lambert has reached crisis point at Aston Villa after the latest storm over cheating to hit the Premier League ended up dragging his strugglers back into the relegation zone. Lambert's problems are piling up by the week and this time it was a contentious penalty that proved decisive and left Villa facing the prospect of a nerve-jangling end to an agonising campaign. Jay Rodriguez clearly dived in the penalty area before defender Enda Stevens had even made contact and Rickie Lambert's spot kick was enough to condemn Villa to their 11th defeat of the season. The Villa manager could face a Football Association investigation after criticising referee Mark Halsey but it was difficult not to feel sympathy for him after the pivotal decision proved enough to take his club back into the bottom three on goal difference. Southampton have now won six out of their past seven meetings against their fellow Premier League strugglers and provided Lambert with another blunt reminder that reinforcements are urgently required.
Mail on Sunday: In the week Lionel Messi's brilliance won him another Ballon D'Or, Aston Villa furthered their claims to the Barn Door, such is their current inability to hit one. After the stunning midweek Capital One Cup semi-final defeat by Bradford City that saw Villa spurn chance after chance, Christian Benteke was the chief culprit once more as they drew a Premier League blank yet again at Villa Park to make it just one goal from their last six home games. As they sank sadly into the bottom three, Villa were left to claim - with justification - that Jay Rodriguez was angling for contact that never actually came from Enda Stevens for the penalty that was converted by Rickie Lambert and proved to be Southampton's winning goal.
Sunday Mercury: Jay Rodriguez and Mark Halsey were the sinners as Saints sent Villa closer to relegation hell during yet another bitterly disappointing afternoon at Villa Park. Rodriguez conned Halsey for the crucial penalty which separated the sides as Southampton's second away win of the season dumped Villa into the Premier League's bottom three. Rickie Lambert buried the 34th minute spot kick after Rodriguez dived over Enda Stevens' foot without the rookie full-back making the slightest contact with the Saints striker. But it is Villa boss Paul Lambert who is paying the penalty with the claret and blues now 18th on 19 points after 22 games as an increasingly bleak survival scrap intensifies. Nathan Baker headed against the crossbar and Christian Benteke threatened several times as Villa eventually recovered from the penalty injustice to stage a fruitless rally late on. But having witnessed just three league wins at Villa Park in 2012, the freezing cold claret and blue faithful trudged away with a familiar feeling of frustration and a new sense of dread.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.