SWANSEA • Aston Villa slipped closer to relegation, as Brad Guzan's howler was punished by Federico Fernandez in Swansea's 1-0 win over the English Premier League's bottom club on Saturday.
Remi Garde's side look certain to return to the second tier for the first time since 1988 after a miserable campaign. It hit a fresh low when Villa's American goalkeeper handed the second-half winner to Fernandez, after he weakly palmed the ball out from a free kick and onto the defender into his unguarded net.
Woeful Villa have now lost their last six matches, conceding 18 goals, and sit 12 points from safety with only seven games left to avoid their first relegation in 29 years.
The Midlands side, whose much-maligned chief executive Tom Fox abandoned the sinking ship when he announced his resignation last week, are heading towards the Championship with barely even a token gesture of defiance.
Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin was back on the bench after missing the previous three matches because of a chest infection and his return was perfectly timed as the hosts, now 11 points above the relegation zone, effectively guaranteed their survival with a third win from their last four games.
"The performance was not very good," Guidolin said. "But this is the match I was waiting for, because I know the situation and I saw my players played a nervous game.
"We were better in the second half, not very good but better with Leon Britton in the middle. But what I liked this evening from my guys is the attitude. This was our most important win of the season."
Villa's tally of 16 points was the third lowest in Premier League history after 30 games, so it was hardly surprising that even Garde appeared on the verge of giving up when he talked of their almost 'impossible mission' to survive.
He did, however, defend his goalkeeper's costly error.
"Brad will go away for the next international break and have the time to digest that and to come back stronger," Garde said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN