Football: Le Tissier steals point

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Southampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

A SPECTACULAR equaliser by England's Matthew Le Tissier, as timely as it was deserved, secured a point for Southampton and raised a familiar spectre for Aston Villa at Villa Park last night.

Barely a minute remained when Le Tissier, spotting Mark Bosnich off his line, sent a shot swerving and dipping beyond the Villa keeper from fully 35 yards. Alan Ball, the Saints' manager, came scampering on to the pitch punching the air, and for once the incursion was understandable.

In the adjacent dug-out, Ron Atkinson stood shaking his head, probably more in despair than in admiration for Le Tissier. Having taken a first-half lead through Dean Saunders, Villa were unable to finish off visitors who narrowly avoided relegation in May.

Many more disappointments like this and Villa will develop a complex about playing at home. Last season, they took only 29 of the 63 points available before their own fans, and despite the inclusion of a high-profile newcomer in John Fashanu, there were times when it felt as if the summer break had never happened.

Villa began brightly enough, with Dwight Yorke and Ugo Ehiogu going close during early pressure. Bruce Grobbelaar was forced to act almost as a sweeper as the hosts gained the upper hand, though he was in a more conventional position when Saunders beat him in the 32nd minute.

Grobbelaar's long kick was promptly returned via Phil King and a Fashanu header to Saunders. The Welshman danced round Francis Benali before firing low past his former Liverpool colleague from 18 yards.

us100 At that stage, Nicky Banger posed a greater threat than Le Tissier, once heading narrowly over. However, the Channel Islander was warming to his task, an exquisite pass creating another opening for Banger 17 minutes from time. Bosnich parried, and although Paul McGrath cleared Neil Maddison's follow-up off the line, Le Tissier's tour de force ensured justice.

As Ball said later: 'Those goals are the norm for Matt. You're never out of a game when he's on the pitch. I've been back at Southampton six months, and every day he's done something like that.'

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Richardson, McGrath, Ehiogu, King; Houghton, Parker (Barrett, 71), Townsend, Yorke; Saunders, Fashanu (Atkinson, 61). Substitute not used: Spink (gk).

Southampton (3-5-2): Grobbelaar; Hall, Widdrington (Heaney, 61), Benali; Kenna, Allen, Maddison, Magilton, Charlton; Le Tissier, Banger. Substitutes not used: Whiston, Beasant (gk).

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).