Wigan compound Villa woes
Aston Villa's season went from bad to worse with a crushing 3-0 defeat by relegation rivals Wigan on Saturday that left the future of under-fire coach Paul Lambert in further doubt.
Goals from Ivan Ramis, Emmerson Boyce and Arouna Kone ensured Villa went scoreless in a third consecutive defeat, a run in which they have conceded 15 goals after losing 8-0 to Chelsea and 4-0 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Villa would have slipped into the relegation zone had third-bottom Southampton not been denied victory in a 3-3 draw at Stoke City, and they now sit behind Wigan, level on 20 points, in 16 and 17th positions respectively.
The victory was a boost for Wigan, the northern club having lost five and drawn one of their last six Premier League games.
Spanish central defender Ramis made a perfect return from injury with a headed goal for the visitors past Brad Guzan after just two minutes.
Villa were in the ascendancy for the end of the first-half and early in the second period, Belgian Christian Benteke in particular causing problems.
But the home side were the ones to relent, conceding a brace of goals in the 52nd and 56th minutes.
First, Boyce struck home past Guzan after a neat one-two with Kone, and then the Ivory Coast international was on hand to finish off any home hopes.
Picking up a through ball from Argentine strike Franco di Santo, Kone rode Mathew Lowton's weak challenge to round Guzan and slot home from a tight angle into an empty net.
Kone could have made it four for Wigan 20 minutes later but he failed to control a huge kick from his keeper Ali al-Habsi that cleared the hapless Villa defence.
The result, coming after previous humiliating defeats by Chelsea and Tottenham, left Villa
It also closed an annus horribilis of a calendar year in which Villa managed just six wins in 38 Premier League games, this most recent defeat meaning Villa equalled their record number of 18 league losses, set in 1994 and 1999.