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[16 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.

KEY EVENTS

24 min Wiltford beats Hall and Shaw and scores with a precision shot into the near post corner
57 min Eustace replaces Telfer and a minute later is booked for a challenge on Parlour
72 min Arsenal sub Vernazza scores amidst a City defence in disarray
80 min Hadji scores from a perfect free kick after Adams fouls Zuniga
90 min Hall almost makes it 2-2 in the dying seconds with a cracking shot that bounces out from the underside of the bar

FAN'S REPORT 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 late equaliser.

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 possession.

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 scrambling.

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 cleared.

Seconds later the ref blew for full time.

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.

MATCH FACTS by Jim Brown

ARSENAL:
David 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, Nelson Vivas

COVENTRY:
Magnus 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

GOALS:
Arsenal - Wiltord (24) Vernazza (72)
Coventry -
Hadji (80)

REFEREE: M Dean (Wirral)

BOOKINGS:  [CHECK CITY BOOKINGS FOR THE SEASON TO DATE]
Arsenal - Adams (77)
Coventry - Eustace (58), Zuniga (89)

ATTENDANCE: 37,794

LEAGUE POSITIONS AFTER THIS MATCH:
Coventry - 12th
Arsenal - 2nd

INTERESTING FACT:
Hadji's goal was City's first at Highbury for almost five years - the last was scored by Noel Whelan in 1996.

    

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CWN / Sport / Football / Coventry City FC / 16 Sep 00
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