Solano shatters Saints and keeps Villa in hunt for Uefa Cup spot

Southampton 2 - Aston Villa 3
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The Independent Football

You did not need to be an expert in the art of reading body language to gauge Harry Redknapp's reaction to this spirit-sapping defeat for his relegation threatened side. His appearance after this roller-coaster riot of a match was somewhat akin to a little grey cloud in a suit. And with good reason.

You did not need to be an expert in the art of reading body language to gauge Harry Redknapp's reaction to this spirit-sapping defeat for his relegation threatened side. His appearance after this roller-coaster riot of a match was somewhat akin to a little grey cloud in a suit. And with good reason.

The normally ebullient Southampton manager had seen his team prise an unlikely defeat from the jaws of victory in a display of such opposite extremes that Dr Jekyll should be looking to form a support group.

"It's a massive body blow," conceded Redknapp. "It's the most depressed I have felt after a game this season. We are just not good enough at the back. We shouldn't have to score three or four goals at home to win a game."

In truth, the way Saints collapsed as Nolberto Solano inspired a second-half resurgence, they could have netted five and still ended up losing.

Doom and gloom was the order of the day, but it was clear skies after 13 minutes, with the home team two goals to the good through Kevin Phillips and Peter Crouch and Southampton's fans in fine voice.

But for three stops from Thomas Sorensen, and the 6ft 7in Crouch getting his long legs tangled when it seemed easier to score, Southampton could have declared by half-time.

Having seen his side comprehensively outplayed in the opening period, the Villa manager, David O'Leary, shuffled his pack at the break. He had already lost the England striker Darius Vassell, after a nasty kick on the ankle, and withdrew the struggling Martin Laursen to throw the impish Solano into the fray.

The impact was instant, and decisive, with the Peruvian laying on a slide-rule pass for Carlton Cole to reduce the arrears with his first goal since August.

Solano himself claimed the equaliser, the only man not surprised when Thomas Hitzlsperger's 70th-minute corner fell to him in acres of space near the back post.

With Southampton's defenders auditioning for roles in the Keystone Kops, it was a question of when, not whether, Villa would score again. In the event it was Steven Davis who provided the winner from Ulises De La Cruz's cross.

"We couldn't get near Solano,"Redknapp said. "It should have been game over by half time. We looked fantastic in patches. It wasn't complacency that lost us the game, it was nerves."

O'Leary, with one eye still on Uefa Cup qualification, said: "We've got a smaller squad than we had last year," he said. "So to be in the position we are with an outside chance of Europe is a big credit to the players."

The travelling supporters were keen to rub salt in the wound. "You're going down with the Baggies," they taunted. But in truth, their team's remarkable comeback, coupled with Palace and Norwich drawing, has handed West Bromwich Albion a Premiership lifeline.

Goals: Phillips (4) 1-0; Crouch (13) 2-0; Cole (55) 2-1; Solano (70) 2-2; Davis (72) 2-3.

Southampton: (4-4-2) Niemi; Delap, Lundekvam, Jakobsson (Davenport, 45), Bernard; Telfer (Camara, 74), Redknapp, Quashie, A Svensson (Le Saux, 63); Crouch, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith, Higginbotham.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; De La Cruz, Delaney, Laursen (Solano, 45), Samuel; Hendrie, Hitzlsperger, Davis, Barry; Vassell (Cole, 36), Angel (L Moore 77). Substitutes not used: Postma, Berson.

Referee A D'Urso (Essex).

Booked: Southampton Redknapp; Aston Villa Hendrie.

Man of the match: Solano.

Attendance: 31,926.

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