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Villa secures Europa League berth

ASTON Villa secured its place in Europe next season and Hull City remained dangerously close to the relegation zone after John Carew gave the Midlanders a 1-0 Premier League victory on Monday.

The battle between two of the least in-form teams in the league was decided after 34 minutes at Villa Park when Carew turned in a cross from Ashley Young following a sharp counter-attack.

It was Villa's first win in 13 games in all competitions and though it cannot now catch fourth-placed Arsenal, it edged them back two points above Everton which is sixth.

Villa is now assured of a top-six finish and a place in the Europa League, next season's replacement for the UEFA Cup.

Hull, which has plummeted down the table after a flying start to its first season in the top flight, remains on 34 points, three points above third from bottom Newcastle United with three games remaining.

Meanwhile, Newcastle United has suspended midfielder Joey Barton until further notice, the Premier League club said yesterday.

Barton was shown a straight red card for a wild tackle on Xabi Alonso during Newcastle's 0-3 defeat by Liverpool on Sunday.

Stand-in manager Alan Shearer condemned the challenge, saying Barton had let down himself and the club. Local media reported that Shearer had rowed with the player in the dressing room after the match and fined him two weeks' wages.

With three games left, and Newcastle three points adrift of safety, Barton will incur an automatic three-game suspension from the FA anyway for his red card, prematurely ending another controversial and injury-hit season.

"Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been suspended from the club until further notice," the club said in a statement on its Website. "The club will be making no further comment on the matter at this time."

Barton, who joined Newcastle for 5.8 million pounds (US$8.62 million) from Manchester City two years ago, was making his first appearance since January after recovering from a foot injury.

Barton, 26, still has a suspended six-game ban hanging over his head following his training-ground assault on former City teammate Ousmane Dabo in 2007. Last year he was jailed for 77 days after an assault in Liverpool city center in December 2007.


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