Federico Fernandez goal eases Swansea's relegation fears against lowly Villa
Federico Fernandez's first Swansea goal eased their Barclays Premier League relegation fears as Aston Villa were beaten 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium.
Fernandez had not scored in 57 appearances since signing from Napoli in August 2014 but he chose the perfect moment to open his account, even if the Argentina central defender actually knew little about it.
Villa might have lost a man when Aly Cissokho received a stern lecture from referee Mike Dean rather than a second yellow card after the left-back brought down Modou Barrow after 53 minutes.
But Villa were punished anyway when Brad Guzan failed to collect Gylfi Sigurdsson's free-kick and the ball rolled into an empty net off Fernandez's right shoulder.
Villa might consider the goal an unsatisfactory way to lose a contest but, in truth, it was in keeping with a scrappy game which was woefully short on quality.
For most parts, it looked like a fixture that would not be out of place in the Sky Bet Championship next season which, of course, it could be.
Villa are almost certainly doomed after winning only three league games all season, while Swansea could not take their eight-point buffer above the drop zone at kick-off for granted.
Swansea's run-in is certainly a tough one on paper and points will not come easy on this evidence, but they have now moved within four of the magic 40-point mark and the final few weeks of the season should be less tense.
Villa had lost their five previous games but they began with an enthusiasm which betrayed that sorry statistic.
Joleon Lescott and Jordan Ayew both failed to hit the target from promising positions before Swansea hinted at leaving first gear when Jack Cork directed Sigurdsson's corner wide at the near post.
But there was no rhythm to Swansea's play and Villa enjoyed a share of possession, territory and scoring opportunities which they rarely have in this most desperate of seasons.
Ciaran Clark headed over Jordan Veretout's corner and the Frenchman was again prominent to deliver a cross which Rudy Gestede met for Lukasz Fabianski to clutch on his goal-line.
Bafetimbi Gomis, recalled to the Swansea starting line-up, produced a neat turn but his shot was wayward and Guzan went untested in the Villa goal.
And still Villa pressed as Gestede tried his luck with an overhead kick which Ashley Williams headed over as Fabianski prepared to save.
Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin was back in the dugout after a three-match absence with a chest infection and he r esponded to an awful first-half performance by sending on Leon Britton to provide some control in midfield.
He was rewarded within eight minutes of the restart and, although the goal was fortunate, it briefly provided Swansea with some self-belief with Sigurdsson seeking to create and Modou Barrow a threat down the right flank.
But Villa heads refused to drop and Lescott met Carles Gil's corner only to direct it down and straight at Fabianski.
Gomis almost added a second in stoppage time but Swansea held on for victory which should protect their top-flight status.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Garde out now for me. Let Brian Little or Sid take them for the rest of the season. Not tried a leg in the 2nd half." - Former Villa striker Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) wants to see a change in manager at his old club.
Lukasz Fabianski 6 (out of 10)
Angel Rangel: 5
Federico Fernandez: 6
Ashley Williams: 7
Stephen Kingsley: 5
Jack Cork: 6
Ki Sung-yueng: 4
Leroy Fer: 6
Modou Barrow: 6
Gylfi Sigurdsson: 6
Bafetimbi Gomis: 5
Leon Britton (on for Ki, 46 mins): 6
Kyle Naughton (on for Barrow, 78 mins): 6
Wayne Routledge (on for Kingsley, 86 mins): 6
Brad Guzan: 5
Alan Hutton: 5
Ciaran Clark: 6
Joleon Lescott: 6
Aly Cissokho: 5
Ashley Westwood: 6
Idrissa Gana: 6
Jordan Ayew: 5
Carles Gil: 5
Jordan Veretout: 6
Rudy Gestede: 6
Andre Green (on for Veretout, 61 mins): 5
Gabriel Agbonlahor (on for Gil, 74 mins): 5
Ashley Williams: Enjoyed an old-fashioned tussle with Rudy Gestede and slowly got the better of the Aston Villa striker. Never afraid to put his head in where it hurts, he provided a formidable barrier when Villa swung in crosses into the danger area. Without his return to form since Christmas, Swansea would be in serious trouble.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
In a scrappy contest devoid of quality even the goal was down more to luck than creativity - the ball rolling into the net off Federico Fernandez's shoulder. Gestede engineered a neat piece of skill with an overhead kick which Williams headed out of the arms of Fabianski. But the first-half tangle between Gestede and Williams probably produced the biggest reaction from the crowd and set the tone for their physical battle.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin had missed the last three games with a chest infection and much of this game would not have been good for his health. The hosts were disjointed for long periods and were often outplayed by the visitors who are heading for the Championship. Villa boss Remi Garde had plenty of effort and commitment from his players, but the quality which has been so lacking this season was absent again and relegation beckons.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Where do you start? Misplaced passes, the dearth of creativity and little goalmouth action to worry the respective goalkeepers. Swansea and Aston Villa might not be two of the Premier League's shining lights, but surely they should have produced better than this before a national television audience. Many viewers might well have turned off before the end.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Stoke v Swansea, Premier League (Saturday, April 2)
Aston Villa v Chelsea, Premier League, (Saturday, April 2)
Swansea midfielder Britton told Sky Sports: "We're delighted. It was a massive game for us this weekend against a team down the bottom like ourselves so we needed to make sure we picked up the three points.
"The first half was a bit flat, it was a bit scrappy overall but we've come away with the three points and that was the main thing."
Swansea boss Guidolin, back in the dugout after a three-match absence with a chest infection, said: "The three points are very important.
"We didn't play well in the first half but in the second half we improved and I think at the end it is a good victory."
Britton added: "The manager mentioned about it being like a cup final today and it being our biggest game of the season, so there were going to be a few nerves around the team.
"You could feel it around the stadium a little bit, it's been like that for a few weeks now but hopefully this win has given us a bit of breathing space down the bottom."