Platt rests his case after persuasive performance

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The Independent Online
SIMON O'HAGAN

Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 1

David Platt's much-heralded return to English football this season after four years in Italy may have turned out to be less than triumphant but, on the evidence of Saturday, his talent for scoring vital goals from midfield remains undimmed.

Whatever a watching Terry Venables thought of Platt's overall performance, which at times was a little flat, the header with which he gave Arsenal the lead will surely count for a lot as the England coach considers his squad for the match against Portugal next Tuesday.

Having missed as a result of knee surgery three international get-togethers this season and the matches against Norway and Switzerland, Platt is now in a position to reclaim what had once seemed his by right. But time has not stood still, and in Platt's absence Robert Lee has established a considerable power base of his own within the England set-up, helped by Kevin Keegan's promotion of him as the best footballer in the country.

"Football is all about people taking advantage of other people's misfortunes," Platt said. "My only aim is to get back into the squad." In this, he can rest his case with an international goal-scoring record that speaks for itself: 26 in 55 matches. With Alan Shearer still struggling to find the net for England, the argument for Platt becomes all the more persuasive.

His goal exemplified his powers of foresight and execution. An hour had gone when Arsenal won a free-kick on the left. As Paul Merson swung the ball into the penalty area, Platt began his run, diagonally towards the near post. Paul McGrath, the Aston Villa central defender, saw it happen, but by then it was too late. Platt got goalside and met the ball with a firm header which he directed wide of Mark Bosnich.

In the absence of the injured Dennis Bergkamp for the first time this season, a win would have been an outstanding result for Arsenal. After a sticky start, in which Platt's defensive qualities came to the fore, Villa carried the game to their opponents and deserved to get something out of it.

That they did so by equalising in the 65th minute was entirely down to a piece of opportunism and skill by Dwight Yorke that exceeded even that of Platt's. From Alan Wright's cross from the left, Yorke's exquisitely glanced header was so well aimed that David Seaman simply stood and watched it go in.

Goals: Platt (60) 0-1; Yorke (65) 1-1.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, McGrath, Southgate; Charles, Draper, Johnson, Townsend, Wright; Milosevic, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Staunton, Scimeca, Spink (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn; Merson, Platt, Jensen, Helder (Morrow, 68); Hartson (Dickov, 88), Wright. Substitute not used: Hillier.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: Aston Villa Townsend; Arsenal Jensen, Bould, Wright.

Man of the match: Yorke.

Attendance: 37,770.

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