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Saturday, April 3, 1999 Published at 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK


Beckham steals point for leaders

David Beckham celebrates United's equaliser

Wimbledon 1-1 Manchester United

The flowers in Joe Kinnear's garden will smell that extra bit sweeter after his resilient Wimbledon side held the Premiership leaders to a 1-1 draw.

Kinnear is resting at home after his recent heart-attack. But his Crazy Gang lit up Selhurst Park with an early strike from Jason Euell.

It was left to the outstanding David Beckham to earn a deserved point for United with a goal a minute before half-time.

United were near full strength four days ahead of their Champions' League semi-final first leg against Juventus with only Jaap Stam missing through injury and Ryan Giggs resting on the bench.

Paul Scholes and Roy Keane returned after suspension, Ronny Johnsen moved into the heart of defence alongside Henning Berg, and Denis Irwin replaced Phil Neville at full-back.

The Dons welcomed back influential centre-back Chris Perry after a thigh injury and had Gareth Ainsworth on the bench after a lengthy lay-off.

United came into the match on an unbeaten run of 19 games in all competitions - in direct contrast to Wimbledon's three successive defeats since manager Joe Kinnear suffered a heart attack scare.

However, the Premiership leaders were behind within five minutes of the kick-off as Jason Euell took advantage of a woeful header back to goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel by full-back Gary Neville.

The United team had converged on the Dons penalty area for a corner only to be caught out as keeper Neil Sullivan gathered a cross and immediately booted the ball downfield.

Neville allowed it to bounce as he was challenged by Euell but his weak header fell short of Schmeichel, who had himself earlier kicked a clearance almost straight to John Hartson, and Euell nipped in to push the ball out of the Danish international's reach.

Then as Schmeichel tried to recover possession with a desperate dive, the Dons midfielder displayed great agility to steer the ball into the empty net.

United had another couple of nervy moments in defence during the opening exchanges, but as the game gathered momentum the Premiership leaders began to assert their control on the game and only a sterling Wimbledon rearguard kept United at bay.

After a solid first 20 minutes from the 'Dons United began to lay siege to the Wimbledon goal but found themselves thwarted as defenders, literally flung themselves in the path of the ball or converged en masse to crowd them out.

Roy Keane was doing his utmost to get the visitors back into the game with some tireless running in midfield, and Sullivan dived low to gather a snap-shot from the Irish international after one of several scrambles in the home side's penalty area.

Wimbledon were quick on the break and when they did have the chance, Marcus Gayle crossed menacingly after some trickery on the right flank for Ceri Hughes to head over the bar.

But just before the break, Beckham secured the equaliser as he pounced on a rare mistake by central defender Dean Blackwell.

Irwin forced his way past Ben Thatcher and drilled in a low cross which bounced into the air off Blackwell's thigh and Beckham was on hand to steer the loose ball home with a first-time shot past the exposed Sullivan.

The second half continued as the first left off with Dwight Yorke probing for an opening and Henning Berg just failing to capitalise on one through-ball by the former Aston Villa striker.

On a rare breakaway Earle drove a powerful shot straight into Schmeichel's midriff but at times only Hartson was left up front as the Dons defended in numbers and the Welshman was replaced by Carl Cort on 67 minutes.

It seemed more like a training ground exercise of attack against defence but still Wimbledon held out and this time Andy Cole fired into the side-netting after neatly twisting his way around Blackwell.

But Joe Kinear's men battled on to earn themselves a point and prevent United from taking advantage of Arsenal's draw at Southampton.

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Kimble, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher, C. Hughes, Earle, Gayle, M. Hughes, Euell, Hartson. Subs: Roberts, Ardley, Heald, Cort, Ainsworth.

Man Utd: Schmeichel, G. Neville, Irwin, Johnsen, Beckham, Cole, Blomqvist, Keane, Scholes, Yorke, Higginbottom. Subs: Butt, Giggs, P. Neville, Van Der Gouw, Solskjaer.

Referee: G Barber (Pyrford)



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