|[11 MAR 00] COVENTRY CITY MATCH REPORT - PREMIERSHIP
Aston Villa (1) 1
Coventry City (0) 0
BY ADAM DENT
It took Gordon Strachan a good hour to make it to
the post match press conference he needed that long to come up with an explanation
for another defeat.
Not that he didnt know the reasons, they were perhaps plain enough, but he was
keen not to repeat himself. With this run of form that must be proving difficult.
This was, according to the manager, not as bad as the performance against Leeds when
the Sky Blues were truly wretched but it was very barren in terms of creation and
worryingly weak defensively.
Not surprisingly Strachan made five changes to that Elland Road line-up. He was able to
recall Robbie Keane, Moustapha Hadji, Steve Froggatt, Richard Shaw and Tomas Gustafsson,
while Gary Breen was left out of the 16 altogether.
Villa, unbeaten in 2000 and no doubt keen to avenge that Highfield Road defeat, had
Benito Carbone and George Boateng back from suspension, and played with the level of
confidence expected of a team on the rise.
They should have scored almost straight from the off when Alan Wright crossed into the
City area finding Ugo Ehiogu totally unguarded at the far post. The only reason the Sky
Blues escaped was a dreadfully poor touch from the England centre half.
The first half largely belonged to Paul Merson. The England man might be flawed off the
pitch, but on it he is in the best form of his career. His runs from wide positions
created space which Carbone and Julian Joachim should have exploited.
The reason they failed was down to poor finishing and some fine last ditch defending
from Colin Hendry. The big Scot may still be ring rusty after his long lay-off north of
the border but the old steel still shone brightly even if those around him appeared rather
City conceded 10 first half corners but the longer Villa went without scoring the more
Coventry managed to find a foothold. They should, against the run of play, have taken the
lead when John Eustace picked out Keane in the box, but the young Irishmans aim was
His partner Cedric Roussel managed to force a save out of Peter Enckelman just a minute
later but Villa, for whom Boateng went close, were firmly in charge.
It was just looking as if City would make it to the break on level terms, allowing
Strachan time to try and work some much needed magic during the interval. It didnt
Four minutes into injury time, Merson swung in a free kick and Ehiogu met the ball full
on to power a header past Hedman.
Keane failed to re-appear for the second half suffering a reoccurrence of his knee
injury and that reduced Citys threat still further.
The second half was even scrappier than the first and again Villa with Joachim
particularly guilty wasted a host of chances. That again brought on the nerves and
they ended the game protecting their lead.
Noel Whelan, on for Keane, had the chance to equalise but shot over. It was totally
Enckelman, Delaney, Barry, Ehiogu, Southgate, Wright, Boateng, Taylor, Merson (Stone, 80
mins), Joachim (Walker, 86 mins), Carbone
Subs: Watson, Cutler, Hendrie
Hedman, Gustafsson, Shaw, Hendry, Froggatt, Chippo, McAllister, Eustace (Burrows, 74
mins), Hadji, Keane (Whelan, 46 mins), Roussel
Subs: Quinn, Hyldgaard, Pead
Ehiogu (45 mins)
REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)
Aston Villa Uhiogu (foul)
Coventry Hadji (foul), Rousell (foul)
COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Hendry last line of