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Saturday, December 5, 1998 Published at 17:04 GMT

Joachim shines in Villa thriller

Paul Scholes put United ahead at Villa Park

Aston Villa 1-1 Man Utd

The Premiership's top two shared the honours at Villa Park but the home side will reflect on a string of missed chances in a pulsating match.

Mark Demuth: Villa approach their next test in good heart
Julian Joachim's deflected drive ensured a draw and another week atop the Premier League for Villa after Paul Scholes had put United ahead just after half-time.

In a game marking Dwight Yorke's return to Villa Park after his £12.6 move to United in August it will be former team-mates Joachim and Alan Thompson who will reflect on the best missed chances.

Alan Green reports (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Villa started more brightly, as Joachim, keeping his place while Stan Collymore served a suspension, missed the best early opportunity.

Dion Dublin, who received the November Carling Player of the Month award before the match, headed into his path but Joachim pushed the ball across the area, with no team-mate close enough to take advantage.

Villa continued to take the initiative as both Ehiogu and Ian Taylor missed with headers.

United come to life

[ image: Jaap Stam goes flying after a challenge with Dion Dublin]
Jaap Stam goes flying after a challenge with Dion Dublin
But it was yet another missed Villa opportunity that set the match alight.

On 23 minutes first Ian Hendrie, then Ian Taylor, struggled to find space to shoot in the United penalty area with visitor's defence floundering.

But the chance served as United's wake-up call as they upped the pace and began to find their confidence.

Eager to put memories of their midweek loss to Spurs in the Worthington Cup behind them, United created a string of half-chances.

England international Gareth Southgate put in a crucial saving tackle as a ricochet let Andy Cole in just 10 yards out.

The resulting corner saw Wes Brown header's flicked on by Cole and headed off the line by a desperate Villa defence.

But Villa, missing Paul Merson but inspired in midfield by the commanding Thompson, responded with a golden opportunity.

A fantastic through ball by Taylor let in Joachim, whose pace tormented the United defence.

But he pushed the ball too far and a grateful Peter Schmeichel gathered.

Scholes goal

Villa did not have long to dwell on their positive first-half performance.

In the second minute of the second half Paul Scholes broke the deadlock with a drilled shot.

England under-21 keeper Michael Oakes was unable to hold Cole's cross after good work down the right wing and the ball fell straight to the England international.

As the game continued at a frantic pace Villa found themselves unable to capitalise on some good build-up play.

[ image: Joachim rescued a point for Villa]
Joachim rescued a point for Villa
But suddenly they found the reward for their hard work with a 55th-minute equaliser.

Inevitably it was Joachim again finding a good position. His 20-yard effort deflected off Dennis Irwin and Schmeichel was left standing as the ball sailed past.

Just minutes later Joachim saw another long-range shot fly just inches wide as a vibrant Villa created chance after chance.

On 65 minutes Thompson drilled a free-kick against the post with United struggling to get the ball out of their half.

Ryan Giggs, brought on at half-time, began to give them more attacking options but United became ever more frustrated.

Yorke, booed with every touch of the ball, and Irwin were booked for dissent after a questionable offside decision as their attempts on goal became more frantic.

Two minutes later Yorke's first real shot of the match made for an easy save by Oakes.

Although United were able to match Villa's boundless energy in the final 10 minutes, neither side could find a winner.

Aston Villa: Oakes, Wright, Southgate, Ehiogu, Watson, Taylor, Thompson, Joachim, Dublin, Barry, Hendrie. Subs: Grayson, Ferraresi, Vassell, Lescott, Rachel.

Man Utd: Schmeichel, Neville, Irwin, Stam, Beckham, Cole, Blomqvist, Keane, Scholes, Yorke, Brown. Subs: Johnsen, Butt, Sheringham, Giggs, Van Der Gouw.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds)

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