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Coventry City (0) 0
Southampton (0) 1

Coventry’s 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 Coventry’s 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 Southampton’s 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 Coventry’s 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 trouble.

Gordon Strachan, Coventry’s 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 Hadji’s pass near his own penalty area and then almost caught Southampton’s 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 Coventry’s 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.

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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

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 7 Aug 99

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM