Coventrys new Moroccan signings were given a
taste of just how tough life can be in the Premiership when they saw the points slip away
with a late sucker punch.
Moustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo showed enough skill and application to excite the
Sky Blues fans, but it was left to an Englishman, Matt le Tissier to produce the telling
pass of the match.
The Channel Islander who hopes to rekindle his England career under Kevin Keegan sliced
open Coventrys defence with an 84th minute pass which left Egil Ostenstad
with a clear run on goal.
The blond Norwegian allowed goalkeeper Magnus Hedman to narrow the angle but could
still see enough of the target to slot home a left foot shot.
Coventry did not deserve to lose from their only slip of the match, but on the other
hand they did fail to put away their own chances. It was Southamptons first opening
day victory for eleven years and they deserved it.
They did not deviate one fraction from their game plan and it worked like a dream.
They tackled ferociously in defence, the midfield closed down their opposite numbers at
every opportunity and the two strikers Ostenstad and Pahars were a real handful for
Coventrys back line. Pahars in particular showed great pace and he and his partner
were always available whenever a defender needed to knock the ball upfield to keep out of
Gordon Strachan, Coventrys manager said afterwards:
"I thought it was a good game between two teams going for a win. We had the better
chances. Their goalkeeper had to make a few saves and there were a few blocked shots
whereas they had only the one chance which they put away.
"I was pleased with our performance though. I did not think we played that badly
and the Moroccans did well. I substituted Chippo in the second half because he was tiring.
He was not passing the ball as well as Hadji and sometimes that can affect your tiredness.
If you are passing well it can keep your legs going even when you are very tired."
Hadji missed the best chance of the first half. Darren Huckerby did well to wriggle
clear of a defender near the corner flag. He sprinted along the bye line and cut the ball
back, but Hadji scooped his shot over the target from a dozen yards.
In the second half Marc Edworthy almost broke the deadlock when he raced on to
Hadjis pass near his own penalty area and then almost caught Southamptons
goalkeeper Paul Jones unawares with a surprise shot from 30 yards. The ball was heading
for the top corner when Jones managed to fingertip it away.
Strachan sent on John Aloisi for Huckerby in the 70th minute and then Steve
Froggatt for the tiring Chippo. The manager explained:
"Huckerby roams all over the place but is never in the middle. He did not have a
header or shot in the match. Aloisi stays in the middle and I thought we looked more
dangerous when he came on."
In fact Coventrys best moments came after Southampton had scored. Hadji crossed
from the left side in the 88th minute and Aloisi almost got the killer touch at
the near post. The ball then reached Whelan at the far post but, under pressure from a
defender, he struck the ball wide.
Then in the dying seconds Whelan tried a volley which dipped viciously, but not early
enough. The ball skimmed the bar and clipped the roof netting.
Hedman; Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Burrows; Telfer, McAllister, Hadji, Chippo (Froggatt
77mins); Whelan, Huckerby (Aloisi 70 mins)
Subs: Nuzzo (gk), Soltvedt, Breen
Jones; Dodd, Lundekvam, Richards, Benali; Le Tissier, Marsden (Ripley 85 mins) Hughes,
Kachloul; Ostenstad, Pahars
Subs: Moss (gk), Beresford, Oakley, Almeida
Ostenstad (84 mins)
REFEREE: Peter Jones (Loughborough)
Southampton Ostenstad (23 mins, foul), Dodd (84 mins, foul)
COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Williams immaculate in defence