Yorke's turning point for Villa
Arsenal 2 Wright 13, Merson 73 Aston Villa 2 Milosevic 68, Yorke 74 Attendance: 38,130
Sunday 29 December 1996
It was an unexpected turn-about after Villa's tentative, unambitious performance in the first half, which Arsenal dominated but which had yielded only Ian Wright's 22nd goal of the season. After the interval crab-like Villa found their claws. Savo Milosevic equalised and within a minute of Paul Merson restoring Arsenal's lead, Yorke struck to force the draw.
It was in keeping with the recent history of the two clubs, but the result barely enhanced either team's Premiership title pretensions. After their third draw in four matches, the other yielding a defeat, Arsenal's challenge is at a crossroads. Villa, meanwhile, need to match their recent five- game winning sequence.
The consolation for them was that, in the end at least, they responded vigorously to the defeat by Chelsea on Boxing Day which ended that run and, for the first time this season, gleaned reward after trailing.
That they did so, however, was largely due to Arsenal's profligacy after Wright's splendid early goal. Patrick Vieira, returning after suspension to good early effect, won the ball in midfield and slipped it forward to Dennis Bergkamp, also a livewire at this point. The Dutchman timed his pass perfectly through to Wright, who ran on to beat Mark Bosnich with a fierce, low right-footed cross shot.
It was a reward for crisp, ground-based direct football in contrast to that being offered by Villa. They passed the ball neatly enough but too often squarely or backwards, with scarcely any player willing to risk the decisive pass. They were fortunate to reach the break only a goal adrift, with Riccardo Scimeca having to clear off the line after Wright had rounded Bosnich and Bould heading just over the bar after the goalkeeper had kept out Bergkamp's shot.
The Villa manager Brian Little admitted: "If we had been three or four down it wouldn't have been out of context with the game. We needed half- time to talk through things. We were too static, too predictable. We wanted to raise the tempo and pass with a purpose."
Suddenly Yorke was buzzing as a more determined Villa established a grip in midfield. Ian Taylor almost clipped home over John Lukic from Yorke's low cross - their first chance, after 50 minutes - but Bould cleared as the ball rolled goalwards. They ran the risk of being caught on the break, as Wright showed when he was just wide from Merson's long ball, but also finally looked like scoring.
A goal duly came while Arsenal were making an ill-timed substitution. As they prepared to defend a throw-in, on came Steve Morrow for Remi Garde and they still appeared disorganised as Fernando Nelson's cross came in. Mark Draper headed it back across goal and at the far post Milosevic, declared fit to play after a virus only two hours before kick-off, was free to steer home.
Stung, Arsenal responded with another excellent goal, Merson accepting Morrow's pass infield, dancing past Steve Staunton and driving home from 20 yards. It lasted only a minute, however, Milosevic sending Yorke clear to clip over Lukic.
Bergkamp had a late chance in a typically rousing Highbury finale, sidefooting just wide after a long run, but one sensed that Arsenal, their ageing legs failing them in this hectic phase of the season, had missed the moment.
We will find out more about both teams this new year week, with Wright beginning a three-match suspension - "I don't love the FA now," said the T-shirt he revealed after scoring yesterday - and Villa going to Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Latest in Sport
Ian Herbert: Work still to do before this Liverpool can be compared to class of ’08
The worst owner in football? Vincent Tan faces fan backlash as Malky Mackay clings to Cardiff job
Bonuses for goals and top four finish as Luiz Suarez joins Premier League's top three earners
Transfer news: Tottenham Hotspur - January transfer targets
Luis Suarez: Liverpool striker ends exit speculation by signing 'long-term' contract
- 1 Bonuses for goals and top four finish as Luiz Suarez joins Premier League's top three earners
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: PHP Deve...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...