Under-pressure manager Gerard Houllier admitted Aston Villa are locked in a relegation battle but said they would emerge from their struggles in time.Villa slipped into the bottom three for the first time since 2002 after losing 1-0 at home to Sunderland on Wednesday. [LNB]"We are in a relegation fight now," he said. "The crowd must be frustrated, as I am. I understand their frustration. [LNB]"[But] had we won they would have been chanting my name. We're going through a difficult period, but we'll make it." [LNB]Houllier blamed the defeat on Emile Eskey's red card in the second half as Sunderland made them pay with a late winner from Phil Bardsley
at Villa Park, while some supporters voiced their anger towards the Frenchman at the final whistle. [LNB]"The sending off cost us the game," Houllier told BBC Sport.[LNB] Senior players will desert a sinking ship!! We will be left with a youth team. And Houllier only buys kids until 23!! chicagovillan "It's a shame. Even a draw would have been a great result after what happened in the game. [LNB]"I'm disappointed with result, but happy with reaction of players. Credit goes to them, in terms of what they put in the game. [LNB]"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." [LNB]Houllier also insisted he retains the support of club owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner, whom he spoke to after the match. [LNB]"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." [LNB]Sunderland manager Steve Bruce felt that victory came at a price in terms of injury setbacks - and blamed the fixture-heavy festive programme.[LNB] [LNB][LNB]Injuries mar victory for Bruce[LNB]He confirmed that midfielder David Meyler had suffered cruciate knee ligament damage and will be out of action for at least six months, while on-loan Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck suffered a hamstring injury. [LNB]"In the Premier League you get players having to play five games in 13 days and players are picking up injuries through fatigue," Bruce said. [LNB]"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."