Football: Benali ends 11-year hitch

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The Independent Online
Eleven years and 286 first-team games in the making, Francis Benali, the Southampton full-back, at last contrived to score that elusive first goal for his club and the precise header, from Matthew Le Tissier's second-half free-kick, made safe the three Premiership points in the Saints' 2-1 win over Leicester City at The Dell.

Earlier, Le Tissier had needed just 86 seconds to open the scoring against in-form Leicester. Kevin Davies burst through on the right but he pulled his shot across the face of the goal. David Hirst unsuccessfully tried to force the ball home and it ran loose to Le Tissier who scored from close in with his left foot.

Leicester, who had welcomed back their young forward Emile Heskey after a three-match ban, and the fit-again Steve Walsh and Steve Guppy should have equalised after 12 minutes when Pontus Kaamark sent Heskey clear but the striker was foiled by Paul Jones's fine save.

The visitors had another good opportunity after 19 minutes when Kaamark crossed from the right but Jones again made a superb reflex save from Robbie Savage's header. Savage eventually pulled a goal back six minutes from time but not before Benali had scored to ease the frantic finale.

John Hendrie, the Barnsley striker, scored with a thumping 20-yard, left- foot drive 15 minutes from the end of their match against Newcastle United at Oakwell to grab a precious point for the bottom-of-the- Premiership Tykes in a 2-2 draw.

Keith Gillespie, the Newcastle winger, had scored twice in six minutes either side of half- time to put the Magpies 2-1 up after Neil Redfearn, the Tykes captain, had given them a ninth-minute lead, curling a 20-yard, right-foot free-kick past Shaka Hislop in the Newcastle goal.

Barnsley could have gone further ahead when Matt Appleby floated a free- kick into the heart of the Newcastle area and South African international midfielder Eric Tinkler's backward header forced Hislop into a fingertip save.

But a minute before half-time, Gillespie struck. Faustino Asprilla's tackle on Tinkler won the ball and he set Gillespie free on the right to cut inside Appleby and curl a 15-yard, left-foot shot into the bottom corner. He added Newcastle's second four minutes after the restart. Then came Hendrie's late riposte.

At the end of a week in which the entire Everton squad appeared to be either up for auction, offered for barter or put on sale at knock-down, form- damaged bargain prices, the players had the last word when they battled hard to make a point in the 0-0 draw with Wimbledon at Goodison Park.

In the Nationwide First Division, the leaders Middlesbrough opened up a three-point gap at the top after a 4-0 win over Reading at the Riverside Stadium, all the goals coming in the last 13 minutes.

But there was no respite for struggling Manchester City. They took the lead against Birmingham City with two minutes remaining at St Andrews but still contrived to lose 2-1 as injury time replies by Nicky Forster and Martin O'Connor broke City's resistance.

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