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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 April, 2003, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Arsenal held by Villa
Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal

Freddie Ljungberg celebrates his opener, but Kolo Toure's own goal cancelled out his strike
Ljungberg's opener was cancelled out by Toure's blunder
Arsenal stuttered and spluttered their way back to the top of the Premiership on goal difference as they were held to a draw at Villa Park.

Freddie Ljungberg looked to have put Arsenal on their way to victory in an unconvincing display when he poked home on 56 minutes.

But an own goal by Kolo Toure capped a Villa spell of pressure to frustrate the Gunners and leave the Premiership title race wide open.

Arsenal failed to respond to Manchester United's laying down of the lunchtime gauntlet as they plodded through the first half.

Hard-working Villa made life tough for the Gunners, but Arsene Wenger's side curiously failed to spark into life on a pivotal day in the title race.

Goalkeeper Peter Enckelman, restored to the starting line-up by Graham Taylor, only had one save to make in the first half.

VILLA PARK HIGHLIGHTS
56 mins: Ljungberg pokes Arsenal in front
68 mins: Taylor tips over Hitzlsperger drive
69 mins: Allback's shot prompts Kolo Toure's own goal
He comfortably dealt with a low 25-yard effort from Ljungberg and that was as good as Arsenal had to offer in a stagnant opening period.

Taylor opted for a five-man midfield and slotted Gareth Barry into the middle of a three-man central defensive partnership in a bid to frustrate the champions.

And the tactics paid handsome dividends as the Gunners failed to fire.

Gilberto sent a header over the bar from an inswinging Henry corner but Arsene Wenger was a fidgety presence on the touchline, a sure sign that things were not going his way.

Things improved after the break, but Wenger's nerves did not.

Patrick Vieira saw a shot blocked after the calamity-prone Enckelman dropped a routine cross.

And then Ljungberg dragged a left-foot shot wide after Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry had combined to set him up.

Relief was finally provided on 56 minutes when a neat Arsenal move involving Ray Parlour and Bergkamp resulted in a shot across goal by Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva.

Marcus Allback prompted Villa's equaliser
Allback celebrates his part in Villa's equaliser
Enkleman saved his low effort but Lungberg reacted quicker than Ulises de la Cruz to fire in the loose ball, his first goal in 14 games.

But the sigh of relief was soon drowned out by the home fans' cheers as Villa forced their way back into the game.

Having managed only a single point from their previous five games, Taylor's side are suffering some nervy relegation fears.

But their battling qualities helped them to a vital point, their equaliser coming in the thick of their best spell of the game.

Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor kept them at bay with a superb fingertip save to keep out Thomas Hitzlsperger's stinging shot.

But the resulting corner caused panic in the Arsenal penalty area and as Toure attempted to hack clear following Marcus Allback's effort, he only succeeded in slamming the ball into his own net.

The goal provided the perfect cameo in a messy game but struggling Villa won't care about that - and nor will Manchester United.


Aston Villa: Enckelman, De la Cruz (Edwards 66), Mellberg, Johnsen, Samuel, Hendrie, Gudjonsson (Allback 66), Hitzlsperger, Barry, Hadji (Leonhardsen 79), Vassell.
Subs not used: Postma, Moore.
Booked: Allback.
Goals: Toure 71 og.

Arsenal: Taylor, Lauren, Cygan, Campbell, Toure (Cole 78), Parlour (Wiltord 79), Ljungberg, Vieira, Silva, Bergkamp (Jeffers 85), Henry.
Subs not used: Edu, Warmuz. Booked: Vieira, Jeffers.
Goals: Ljungberg 56.
Att: 42,602

Referee: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).




WATCH AND LISTEN
Villa boss Graham Taylor
"It was a very good point for us"


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"We made it difficult for ourselves"



ASTON VILLA

ARSENAL

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