SEP 00] COVENTRY CITY MATCH
REPORT - PREMIERSHIP
Arsenal (1) 2
Coventry City (0) 1
Coventry were largely outplayed and
outclassed for most of the match but staged a worthy fightback
in the last ten minutes that almost bought a late equaliser.
beats Hall and Shaw and scores with a precision shot
into the near post corner
replaces Telfer and a minute later is booked for a
challenge on Parlour
sub Vernazza scores amidst a City defence in disarray
scores from a perfect free kick after Adams fouls Zuniga
almost makes it 2-2 in the dying seconds with a cracking
shot that bounces out from the underside of the bar
by Chris Sampson
No real complaints about the
result, with the Sky Blues comprehensively outplayed for 80
minutes before staging a late comeback that nearly snatched a
City were unchanged from the
Leeds game, whilst Arsenal had their reserve (!) strikers of
Bergkamp and Wiltord up front, Henry and Kanu being rested.
The Arsenal midfield has a
slightly weaker look about it these days with Overmars and Petit
transferred to Barcelona and the Viera suspension still with
some time to run.
I was also looking to see whether
Bellamy could use his pace against the ageing Adams/Keown
pairing in the centre half.
The first 5 minutes were all
Arsenal with the Sky Blues almost totally overrun. Both Arsenal
full backs were pushing up and seemed to have plenty of time on
the ball. Sky Blues possession was restricted to some hasty pass
backs to Hedman, whose clearances were being mopped up by Adams
and Keown who then launched Arsenal on the attack.
Shaw and Willo were defending
well, restricting direct shots on goal to a minimum. Arsenal had
a couple of shouts for penalties, both turned down by the ref -
neither looked like decent shouts to me.
This was the pattern for much of
the half. City were constantly pressurised when we did get
Telfer, out on left midfield, was
struggling. Chippo got in a few crunching tackles, but didn't
create with the ball. Palmer was anonymous. Both full backs were
being put under heavy pressure.
Bergkamp created a decent chance
for himself, but his finish was woeful. Hedman claimed a few
crosses and looked in good form throughout.
At the other end Roussel had our
first shot with a turn about 25 yards out and a shot which
didn't really trouble Seaman.
The first goal came on the half
hour. City made a mess of an offside trap allowing Wiltord to
get in behind Marcus Hall. He moved into the box, got past Shaw
and fired low into the near post corner. Not a spectacular
finish, but the replay showed it was a precision shot, threaded
past a desperate Williams lunge, an Arsenal attacker and Hedman.
One-nil and no real complaints.
City failed to respond in the
remainder of the first half, and we seemed to
be totally lacking in ideas. Seconds before half-time, Hadji
tried a speculative overhead kick from wide on the right, which
beat Seaman and the crossbar, landing on the roof of the net. I
say it was speculative, but there was more than a hint that
Hadji knew exactly what he was doing. Would have been goal of
the season if it had gone in.
Half-time, 1-0, and you couldn't
really see how City were going to get back in it.
The second half started much as
the first left off, with Arsenal looking for a second and
beginning to force a few saves from Hedman.
Strachan made some substitutions,
Telfer going off to be replaced by Eustace, and the hugely
disappointing Bellamy being replaced by Zuniga.
This livened up City - Eustace
immediately made a difference, linking the midfield and
strikers, and Zuniga looking much more lively than Bellamy.
Eustace also picked up a yellow
card shortly after coming on, for taking out Parlour.
Roussel looked to have copped a
nasty injury when Adams nudged him into Row A of the stand, but
it looked like a young supporter had taken the full brunt of the
flying Belgian, with Cedric okay to carry on. Adams was tiring
at this point and getting nasty.
City were beginning to show some
signs of livening up, forcing a corner and then Zuniga hurrying
Adams into a panicky looking back header which had Seaman
So there were signs that we could
get back into it, but the next goal went to Arsenal. Pires
skinned Edworthy down the Arsenal left, and after general panic
in the area with Hedman somehow having gone missing, the Arsenal
sub Vernazza hit a shot into the ground which bounced into the
net, with Shaw perhaps looking like he could have been slightly
more committed to blocking the shot.
That looked to be game over, but
City dragged themselves back into it.
Zuniga was causing Adams a fair
few problems and won a free kick on the edge of the box, earning
Adams a yellow card in the process (and I would like to have
heard the ref's explanation for why it wasn't a red with Zuniga
looking to go past Adams for a clear run on goal).
Hadji and Hall lined up for the
free kick, but it was Hadji who took it, curling an effortless
shot round the wall and into the right side of the net with
Seaman not having moved. A perfect free kick, with pace and
curl. Magnificent - 2-1.
After the excitement died down, a
quick glance at the scoreboard showed that despite being
slaughtered for 80 minutes we were only one down with 10 minutes
plus what turned out to be 4 minutes of injury time left.
Finally we came to life and tore
into the Arsenal defence. Hadji looked certain to score after a
mix-up in the Arsenal defence, but after going past Seaman,
Adams came in to clear. Insanely the ref gave a goal kick.
We continued to push forward,
Breen (having earlier replaced Edworthy) was adding some height
on frequent forays forward, Hall was pushing forward and getting
into some good advance positions down the left.
It wasn't all one-way traffic,
but at the other end Hedman was in good form and made some great
blocks and saves.
We were winning corners and our
best chance for an equaliser came right at the death. A corner
wasn't properly cleared and with the ball bouncing in the area,
Marcus Hall stepped up and hit a screamer that looked destined
for the back of the net.
The City fans were on their feet
shouting "Goal!" when the ball hit the underside of
the bar, bounced out, seemed to hit Seaman and then was hastily
Seconds later the ref blew for
After coming so close to getting
a point, the result was a disappointment, but we could have few
complaints. We were completely outplayed for the first hour and
really lacked quality. The revival in the last 10 minutes was
probably more to do with Arsenal changing down a few gears than
anything City were doing.
At the end of the day the match
reinforced the theory that City, especially away from home,
can't live with the top five teams.
by Jim Brown
Seaman, Oleg Luzhny, Silvinho, Gilles Grimandi, Tony Adams,
Martin Keown, Ray Parlour (Paolo Vernazza, 66), Frederick
Ljungberg, Sylvain Wiltord (Thierry Henry, 66), Dennis Bergkamp
(Kanu, 77), Robert Pires
Subs not used: John Lukic,
Hedman, Marc Edworthy (Gary Breen, 79), Marcus Hall, Carlton
Palmer, Paul Williams, Richard Shaw, Moustapha Hadji, Youssef
Chippo, Cedric Roussel, Craig Bellamy (Ysrael Zuniga, 63), Paul
Telfer (John Eustace, 57)
Subs not used: Chris
Kirkland, Runar Normann
Arsenal - Wiltord (24) Vernazza (72)
Coventry - Hadji (80)
CITY BOOKINGS FOR THE SEASON TO DATE]
Arsenal - Adams (77)
Coventry - Eustace (58), Zuniga (89)
LEAGUE POSITIONS AFTER THIS
Coventry - 12th
Arsenal - 2nd
Hadji's goal was City's first at Highbury for almost five years
- the last was scored by Noel Whelan in 1996.