Joachim paves way for villa to extend winning run


STRIKER Julian Joachim made a dream full debut for Aston Villa with the opening goal in a comfortable Premiership success over Blackburn Rovers last night which left Brian Little's side fourth in the table and Blackburn ninth.

Joachim, signed only five days earlier from Leicester for £1.2 million and a substitute in Saturday's 3-3 draw at Wimbledon, capped a promising display with the 55th minute opener.

Gareth Southgate's first league goal for Villa wrapped up the points 16 minutes later as the home side came to life after a disappointing opening 45 minutes.

Aston Villa were always in control, with the skipper Andy Townsend impressive in midfield as they closed the gap on third placed Liverpool, whom they visit on Sunday, to three points.

Blackburn had virtually nothing to offer as an attacking force and Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich made his only worthwhile save in the 89th minute from an Alan Shearer free kick.

Villa's win extended their unbeaten sequence to seven matches in all competitions but Blackburn are on another downward roll as they slumped to third successive reverse.

The first half was a low key affair with Joachim squandering the best opportunity in the 28th minute. Gary Charles's right wing centre was headed back across goal by Dwight Yorke to Joachim, but from 10 yards out he ballooned his volley over.

That was the sum total of serious goalmouth action during that period, and a subdued crowd of 28,008 had little to enthuse about.

Villa stepped up a gear in the second period and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock. Mark Draper's crossfield ball found Charles, who was given plenty of room on the right flank throughout, and his centre was headed wide of goalkeeper Tim Flowers by Joachim.

Yorke twice went close before Villa wrapped it up when Townsend's corner was headed in by Southgate.

Only a brilliant save from Flowers to keep out a close range header from Savo Milosevic prevented Villa from winning by a bigger margin.

Villa manager Brian Little was full of praise for Joachim, saying: "It had been in my mind to play him. They had one or two key players out and I thought `why not go for it'. I thought he did well for most of the game until his legs went a bit in the last 10 minutes, which was understandable.

"He kept the ball well, made some decent runs and got in a good header for his goal, which was a big bonus for him. He did something for us."