JAN 00] COVENTRY CITY FC MATCH REPORT - PREMIERSHIP
Coventry City (0) 2
Chelsea (0) 2
A stunned Gordon Strachan could not believe his own eyes as his
Coventry defence twice ‘fell asleep’ to concede equalisers within
seconds of taking the lead.
City carried on where they left off against Arsenal on Boxing Day,
but no one could have foreseen lightning striking twice in the same
Strachan choked back his disappointment to say:
"I could not believe it. We played brilliantly for 92
minutes and threw it away in thirty seconds of madness."
It was a cruel way to lose out on the three points although at the
kick off Coventry probably would have been happy to settle for just
one point. They produced a season’s best performance in beating
Arsenal 3-2 on Boxing Day but they matched it in this game when they
had the star-studded London side on the ropes.
The Belgian under-21 international Cedric Roussel, who gave England’s
centre half Tony Adams a chasing on Boxing Day proceeded to do
likewise for French World Cup star Marcel Desailly.
Strachan left him in the side alongside Robbie Keane after his
Arsenal performance and Desailly must have been the most relieved man
on the pitch when the Belgian was substituted in the 87th
Roussel was exhausted by his efforts and fully deserved his
standing ovation from the appreciative home fans.
Coventry will surely now try to buy him from Ghent. They have his
services on loan to the end of the season, but his price must rise
with every good game and soon he could be out of their price range.
He won most of the ball in the air and he scored the second goal
– his third in just five full games.
But there were heroes all over the pitch for Coventry. Paul
Williams made some timely tackles, Gary McAllister was again a major
midfield influence, Carlton Palmer gave no quarter and Moustapha Hadji
ran at Chelsea’s defence countless times with thrilling intensity
The first half produced only a couple of half chances, but there
was a lot of skill on view in a game played at a high tempo. Hadji
produced the first real effort when he blazed an angled shot across
the face of the goal then Chelsea’s goalkeeper Ed De Goey saved
superbly from Robbie Keane.
The Irishman allowed Paul Telfer’s throw in to run past him and
spun around Desailly to collect Roussel’s flick on. He reached the
ball a split second before De Goey, but his toe-poke struck the keeper
and cannoned away.
Then Keane read Gianfranco Zola’s intentions to collect the
Italian’s pass and fired a low cross to the near post where Roussel
was only inches
away from the critical touch.
Chelsea finished the half strongly however with Flo missing two
good chances in two minutes. He headed Zola’s free kick over from
close range, and then repeated the feat from the little Italian’s
But Hadji sent Coventry into the changing rooms in good heart when
he almost repeated his brilliant goal against Arsenal by pulling the
trigger from the edge of the box, only this time the ball flew wide.
The second half continued at a hectic pace and Keane set the
pattern when he volleyed narrowly wide. In quick succession Gary
McAllister saw his low cross wrong foot the defence which could only
watch in anguish as the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the target,
and then Magnus Hedman plucked a volley from Dennis Wise from under
Coventry took the lead in the 54th minute from a spectacular move.
Keane, Froggatt, McAllister and Hadji appeared to be well policed as
they knocked the ball around between them on the left flank. But
suddenly they opened up the defence and Hadji fired in a low shot. The
ball was partially blocked and Roussel reacted quickest to hook a left
foot shot into the net.
The cheering had not died away however when straight from the kick
off Chelsea swept upfield, Zola knocked a ball to Flo in the penalty
area and the big man, totally unmarked, clipped his shot into the net.
By a superhuman effort of will and mental strength Coventry
summoned their energies however and appeared to have won the game when
they took the lead a second time in the 82nd minute.
Paul Telfer swung over a centre from the right, Palmer headed it
back across goal and Robbie Keane was perfectly placed to tuck his
header into the net off the far post.
But amazingly lightning struck again. Coventry went to sleep
straight from the kick off and again Zola found Flo who this time
lifted his shot over the diving Hedman.
Many would regard it as a point won by Coventry, but those in
Highfield Road knew it was two points lost.
Hedman; Telfer, Breen, Williams, Froggatt; Chippo, McAllister, Palmer,
Hadji; Roussel (Whelan, 87 mins), Keane
Subs: Ogrizovic (goalkeeper), Normann, Eustace, Gustafsson.
De Goey; Ferrer, Desailly, Thome, Babayoaro; Wise, Zola, Descahmps
(Morris, 78 mins), Poyet (Petrescu, 74 mins), Di Matteo (Sutton, 85
Subs: Lambourde, Cudicini
Roussel (54 mins), Flo (55 mins), Keane (81 mins), Flo (82 mins)
REFEREE: Paul Durkin (Dorset)
Coventry Hadji (handball, 57
Chelsea - Di Matteo (foul, 28 mins)
COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH:
Roussel – dominated world class defenders