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Boss Houllier admits Villa must fight off relegation

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Heskey red card cost us - Houllier

Under-pressure Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has admitted his team are now battling to avoid relegation.

Villa slipped into the bottom three for the first time since 2002 after losing 1-0 at home to Sunderland on Wednesday.

"We are in a relegation fight now. The crowd must be frustrated. I understand their frustration," Houllier said.

"[But] had we won they would have been chanting my name. We're going through a difficult period, but we'll make it."

Houllier blamed the defeat on Emile Heskey's red card in the second half as Sunderland made them pay with a late winner from Phil Bardsley at Villa Park.

But after a performance that drew an angry response from some sections of Villa's support, the Frenchman claimed: "The sending off cost us.

606: DEBATE

"It's a shame. Even a draw would have been a great result after what happened in the game.

"I'm disappointed with the result, but happy with reaction of players. Credit goes to them, in terms of what they put in the game.

"Their effort was good - and I liked their character and temperament, because they did everything they could to equalise. We've got senior players who know where we are and how important the points will be in future games."

Houllier also insisted he retains the backing of club owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner.

"I spoke to Paul Faulkner and he was very supportive," the Villa manager added. "I don't doubt Randy Lerner's firm support and determination. We are in this together for better or worse."

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce felt that victory came at a price in terms of injury setbacks - and blamed himself for the season-ending injury picked up by David Meyler.

Injuries mar victory for Bruce

The 21-year-old midfielder, who had only just returned from eight months out, suffered cruciate knee ligament damage and will be out of action for at least another six months, while on-loan Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck suffered a hamstring injury.

"Meyler looks as if he has ruptured his cruciate knee ligament which is the same one as before," said Bruce. "We are devastated.

"He was magnificent on Saturday against Blackburn and I'm kicking myself now because I've played him. Whether it is because he was tired, I don't know.

"Basically we didn't have anyone else.

"Always in the back of your mind is that he played his first 90 minutes then and I asked him to play again two or three days later when he has been out for eight months.

"In the Premier League you get players having to play five games in 13 days and players are picking up injuries through fatigue," Bruce added.

"It was a tremendous victory, but we have now got 10 players missing and we may have to bring one or two bodies in during January."



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see also
Aston Villa 0-1 Sunderland
05 Jan 11 |  Premier League
Heskey red card cost us - Houllier
05 Jan 11 |  Aston Villa
Injuries mar victory for Bruce
05 Jan 11 |  Sunderland
Premier League as it happened
05 Jan 11 |  Football
Wednesday's football photos
05 Jan 11 |  Football
Houllier expects to be given time
01 Jan 11 |  Aston Villa



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