Flashback 1992-93: Villa blunt Blades in second half masterclass
Paper: Daily Telegraph
Aston Villa maintained their powerful championship challenge with an exhilarating second-half performance which brought goals for Paul McGrath, Dean Saunders and Kevin Richardson and chances to score enough others to make up the goal difference deficit on Manchester United.
Brian Deane's 75th minute replay for Sheffield United kept the match in the balance for longer than it should have been, Richardson easing the anxiety of home supporters with a strike in the penultimate minute.
The only threats posed by Villa during a poor first-half came from free-kicks on the right taken by left-back Steve Staunton.
Villa raised the tempo considerably when they turn round to attack the Holte End and were rewarded with two goals in four minutes in the middle of a sustained attacking spell which put them in command briefly before they were pegged back by a Sheffield United breakaway goal 16 minutes from the end.
McGrath broke the deadlock in the 54th minute when a Matthias Breitkreutz free-kick found its way across a crowded penalty area, the central defender just beating Kevin Gage to guide a shot over the line.
Saunders's 15th goal since his £2.3m move from Liverpool gave Villa breathing space.
The Welsh striker profited from McGrath's downward header from Garry Parker's corner to hit an acrobatic volley which kept Alan Kelly could only parry on to Chris Kamara and over the line.
Villa could have been in the clear at one stage, Dwight Yorke hitting the base of an upright from Staunton's low cross and Breitkreutz the outside of the near post directly from a corner.
Even after Deane had raised Sheffield United's hopes with an opportunist strike at the far post from Glyn Hodges's cross, Villa continued to make the running.
Saunders should have scored again when a slip by Brian Gayle left him with a clear run at Kelly but the goalkeeper stood his ground well, forcing Saunders to make the angle too narrow.
Paper: The Birmingham Post
A dreadful first-half gave no clue to the vibrant second half that saw Aston Villa marching on hand-in-hand with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.
Sheffield United were fortunate to escape a six-goal drubbing.
As it was, they welcomed the final whistle as a losing boxer does the bell at the end of the 12th round.
Paul McGrath opened the floodgates and Dean Saunders scored his sixth in seven games before the deserving Kevin Richardson completed the scoring in the final minute.
One statistical note - surely this was the first time Aston Villa have fielded two Germans in the same side.
A measure of their progress and the selection problems Ron Atkinson had.
Ray Houghton succumbed to a groin injury which had been kept a closely-guarded secret.
The left-footed Matthias Breitkreutz took his place for his first start of the season, and Stephen Froggatt was left out on the left, while Bryan Small was at left-back with Steve Staunton moving into midfield.
Manager Atkinson has rarely made that many changes and Villa looked disjointed through a dismal first-half.
The second half began badly for United manager Dave Bassett.
Twice Alan Kelly had saved from Dean Saunders and Matthias Breitkreutz before he was unlucky to be beaten by Paul McGrath, who was suddenly struck, for him, a rich seam of goals.
Breitkreutz later replaced and warmly applauded, hit a fierce low free-kick which Staunton dummied at the near post for McGrath to aim a swinging right boot which thumped the ball into the turf and over the goalkeeper.
Villa were now rampant and Kelly beat away a shot from Dwight Yorke before misfortune again defeated him.
From a corner, McGrath's header ricocheted off a defender to Saunders who produced a stunning twisting volley which Kelly turned away only to see it go off Chris Kamara's midriff and over the line.
With Garry Parker at the hub, Villa looked capable of repeating their Middlesbrough total but they were stunned in the 74th minute when United found a straw to clutch at.
With Yorke not watching play, Glyn Hodges broke and produced a perfect cross to the far post where Brian Deane slammed in the loose ball.
Saunders should have made it three when he rounded Kelly but stumbled and his cutback was too short for substitute Stefan Beinlich.
But Kevin Richardson put in beyond doubt when he ran on to a great ball from Neil Cox and beat the advancing Kelly.
Paper: The Independent
After Gazza's expensive belch there were times when it appeared Villa Park would witness a costly hiccup by Aston Villa.
Following a poor first-half display, Villa scored twice in four minutes through Paul McGrath and Dean Saunders before Brian Deane deservedly pulled one back for Sheffield United.
Kevin Richardson restored the two-goal margin in the final minute but Ron Atkinson's side will have to play better to maintain their pursuit of Manchester United.
Make sure you pick up tickets for Newcastle.
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