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Coventry City (1) 2
Middlesbrough (0) 1

Robbie Keane, Coventry City FCRobbie Keane scored his most controversial goal of the season to clinch the points which probably ensure Coventry's Premier league safety.

Middlesbrough protested bitterly that the young Irishman was offside when he was played through for his goal in the 61st minute. In the ensuing melee Middlesbrough's manager Bryan Robson was seen gesticulating at Scunthorpe referee Neale Barry from the touchline in front of the dug out.

The word from the changing room area later was that the match official had told Robson he would be reported for his remarks. There was no confirmation but certainly there were comments from both sides about the competence of the match officials.

Barry seemed incapable of spotting the incautious use of arms by Boro's central defender Gianluca Festa and the striker Brian Deane. Festa twice caught Keane across the face in the opening minutes and Deane caught Coventry's defender Colin Hendry on a couple of occasions.

And one of the linesmen missed three blatant offsides in the first half and even failed to award a throw in when the ball had crossed the touchline by a couple of feet.

It made for a messy first half with players appealing for a free-kick virtually every time they fell over. There was little to warm the crowd on a bitterly cold afternoon and even Coventry's first goal in the 31st minute had a strong flavour or luck.

Noel Whelan carved out a chance for Keane with a neat 1-2 and the Irishman squeezed into the penalty area before pulling the trigger. Boro's goalkeeper Mazrk Schwarzer did well to get in a brave block from close range, but to his dismay and Coventry's delight, the ball ricocheted off his body and flew into the net off his skipper Paul Ince's body.

The second half was almost a different game with the teams at last settling down to try to play their football. The stage was set in the opening sixty seconds when John Eustace, Coventry's ebullient young midfielder, charged into the area to fire a close range shot which was blocked by Schwarzer.

The youngster, who was rested by manager Gordon Strachan in the midweek match at Chelsea, was full of energy and clearly relishing the contest with 'The Guvnor' Ince in the midfield engine room.

But he hung his head in shame in the 52nd minute when David Burrows, on the field for the injured Youssef Chippo, swung across a near perfect centre. Eustace appeared surprised when the ball landed at his feet just a few feet from goal and he hurriedly stabbed at it only to scoop the ball straight to the goalkeeper.

It was Gary McAllister's turn to show disappointment three minutes later when Middlesbrough's central defenders made a hash of a goalmouth clearance and the ball fell to the Scot. He pivotted and lashed his shot straight at the goalkeeper.

But it came right for Coventry in the 61st minute when they produced the move of the match to go further ahead.

Noel Whelan charged down an attempted clearance and was first to react to the bouncing ball. He stabbed it beyond Middlesbrough's back line and Keane raced to the edge of the penalty area before slotting the perfect shot into the far corner of the net.

It was his 14th goal of the season and underlined that he is almost back to his best form since his knee ligament injury.

But just when it looked as though Coventry were at last in control they almost let it slip. Andy Campbell was charging into the Coventry area when he was chopped down from behind by Eustace and referee Barry pointed to the penalty spot.

Christian Ziege stepped up to plant his left foot shot past goalkeeper Magnus Hedman's right hand.

Boro tried to step up the pressure in search of an equaliser, but Coventry's back line, so fragile at Chelsea in midweek, stood firm. The home side might have gone even further ahead near the end when Moustaph Hadji forced Schwarzer into a flying finger tip save from a clever back header.

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Hedman, Telfer, Breen, Hendry, Froggatt, Hadji, McAllister, Eustace, Chippo (Burrows, 26 mins), Keane, Whelan
Subs: Williams, Quinn, Zuniga, Ogrizovic (gk)

Schwarzer, Fleming (Stamp, 60 mins), Vickers, Festa, Ziege, Mustoe, Ince, Summerbell (Juninho, 60 mins), Campbell (Stockdale, 88 mins), Ricard, Deane
Subs: Gavin, Beresford (gk)

Ince (own goal, 31 mins), Keane (61 mins), Ziege (penalty, 64 mins)

REFEREE: Neale Barry (Scunthorpe)

Coventry - Eustace (69 mins, foul), Breen (77 mins, foul)
Middlesbrough - Ince (62 mins, dissent), Vickers (79 mins, foul)


COVENTRY MAN OF THE MATCH: Keane - well taken goal

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 15 Apr 00

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