Not many would have picked Wednesday's match between Southampton and Aston Villa as one likely to produce five goals, but it did just that. Twice Villa took the lead and twice Soton answered back, but Fabian Delph's wonder striker in the 80th minute proved too much for the Saints to recover from.
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Southampton opened strong and had Aston Villa pinned back for the better part of the opening 15 minutes. In the fourth minute, Adam Lallana blew by a Villa defender with a wicked cutback. Unfortuantely for the Saints attacker, his touch was heavy and Ron Vlaar made an excellent recovery to block the shot.
Lallana was back a minute later, lifting a cross toward the goal that skipped off the top of the crossbar.
Just when the Saints were beginning to pile on even more pressure, a giveaway by Lallana near the edge of the Villa box led to a lightning quick counter attack that put the visitors in front. Gabriel Agbonlahor led the break and charged down the left wing on a two-on-one break with Libor Kozák to his right. Instead of laying the ball off, Agbonlahor skillfully jumped over a sliding challenge from Dejan Lovren and waited for goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga to go to ground before sliding a shot past him to make it 1-0.
Southampton continued to pile on the pressure but Brad Guzan was up to the task, doing his best "Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm" impression to keep Villa in front. in the 27th minute, a high looping cross from Nathaniel Clyne was met by Jay Rodriguez, who towered over his defender and put a header on frame that was wonderfully blocked away by Guzan with a one-handed save.
Three minutes into the second half, Clyne again connected with Rodriguez and this time, Guzan couldn't play the hero. Rodriquez directed a header well away from the Aston Villa goalkeeper, placing the ball in between the far post and the extended arm of Guzan, who was in a full dive as he attempted to make a stop. He couldn't, and Soton pulled even at 1-1, helping to ease all the frustrations built up from missing so many first half chances.
Just like in the first half, Soton dominated possession but yet another bad turnover opened the door for Villa to take back the lead.
In the 64th minute, Karim El Ahmadi intercepted a Jack Cork pass and sent a bullet cross into the box, where Kozák was ready. The striker timed his run perfectly, cutting right between two Soton defenders and heading the ball off Gazzaniga's hands and over the line.
Southampton answered right back though in the 69th minute when Rickie Lambert headed a cross back across the face of goal to Pablo Osvaldo, who directed the ball past Guzan from extremely close range. The Villa goalkeeper was furious after the goal, but whether his anger was directed at his defenders or the referee for a perceived injustice wasn't clear. Either way, the match was tied again at 2-2.
So at this point you're thinking, surely Aston Villa didn't have another counter attack goal in them right? Well, you'd be wrong.
Fabian Delph's long run in the 80th minute from the midfield ended with Delph unleashing a stunning shot from 25-yards out that rose ever so slightly, tucking itself home nicely in the top corner. It was truly was a lightning bolt that Zeus would no doubt be proud of. There was simply nothing Gazzaniga could do and for the third time on the day, Villa took the lead, this time at 3-2.
Could Soton muster up one more comeback? Nope . . . but there was a near brawl in the final minute after an ugly tackle from Andreas Weimann. Despite nearly eight minutes of stoppage time, there were no more goals to be found and Villa left with a massive victory.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Clyne (Fonte 58'), Yoshida, Lovren, Shaw, Wanyama (Cork 46'), S. Davis, Ward-Prowse (Osvaldo 38'), Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert
Goals: Rodriguez (48'), Osvaldo (69')
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar (Lowton 46'), Clark, Baker, Luna, El Ahmadi (Weimann 88'), Westwood, Delph, Agbonlahor, Kozák (Benteke 66')
Goals: Agbonlahor (15'), Kozák (64'), Delph (80')