FA Carling Premiership
Coventry City 3 - 4 Leeds United
(Half-time: 2 - 3)
|« Tottenham Hotspur||Partizan Belgrade »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Mills, Radebe, Duberry (Woodgate 54), Harte (Kelly 62), Hopkin, Bowyer, Batty, Kewell, Bridges, Huckerby||Robinson, Haaland, Jones|
|Coventry City||Hedman, Quinn (Strachan 75), Shaw, Williams, Edworthy, Chippo, McAllister, Hadji, Froggatt (McSheffrey 75), Aloisi (Hall 46), Keane||Nuzzo, Konjic|
|Leeds United||Bowyer 7, Huckerby 25, Harte (pen) 33, Bridges 60|
|Coventry City||McAllister (pen) 2, Aloisi 17, Chippo 54|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Leeds United||Hopkin, Mills|
|Coventry City||Hadji, Quinn, McAllister|
|Leeds United||Coventry City|
|Shots on goal||16||13|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||11, 12, 3, 8||?|
|Jabba||Sent to Coventry? I volunteered to go!|
|Maggie||Did we play a match on Saturday?|
|The Guardian||Batty's sense and sensibility|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Batty silences the boo-boys|
|The Times||Batty bounces back to win Hunter's plaudits|
|The Sunday Times||Leeds win it by a whisker|
|The Independent on Sunday||The day Hedman lost his head|
|BBC||Coventry City 3 - 4 Leeds United|
|Carlingnet||Coventry City 3 - 4 Leeds United|
I'm not sure what it is about the Coventry Experience that I don't tend to like. Maybe it's the fact that they beat us in the 87 Cup Semi. Maybe it's the fact that the crap parking and the tiny seats make me think I'm at Luton. Whatever it is, I tend to view these games as purgatory rather than paradise - and Saturday was no exception.
Roadworks into Cov slow me up, so it's 12 minutes to 3 and I'm driving past the ground. 13 minutes later, I've found a parking space and am just starting to jog when I hear a loud cheer and fear the worst. As I later saw on MOTD, the ball had been fired at Lucas Radebe's shoulder from a distance of 2 feet - a clear case of handball. McAllister slotted the penalty away as I came sprinting past the traffic lights tuning in my radio.
Up Swan Lane, round the back of the old away end and there's another cheer - smaller this time. 15 seconds later, Radio 5 confirms that I've missed Lee Bowyer's equaliser. I'm 7 minutes late, I've missed two goals and I'm wondering why I bothered coming here.
Finally make it into the ground, dripping with sweat on a clammy afternoon. Just about sat down, when Harry gives away a stupid free kick after one of Strach's - admittedly rather useful - Moroccans has skinned Ian Harte. Macca floats a cross in and Michael Duberry does nothing to convince me we've got a bargain rather than an over- priced cast-off as he and Lucas go for the same ball and lose out to Aloisi. 1-2 down and I'm thinking about setting off for home over an hour early.
At this point, Cov could probably have won the game. But instead of playing it tight, they got a bit cocky - flicking the ball around as we did against Southampton 25 years ago. The important difference here is that they didn't have Bremner, Gray and Giles to make the passes, and after a few cheeky "Ole"s by their crowd they lost the ball. We "ole"d back at them, and 2 passes later, Darren Huckerby was perilously close to being offside as he sprinted into the area to guide the ball past Hedman and into the far corner at a snail's pace.
2-2, and man-of-the-match David Batty took control of midfield. A 3 man move that he started found him in the box with the defence behind him. Hedman came, dived at his feet and made the faintest of contacts, and Batts - of course - went down like a ton of bricks. Ian Harte stepped up to take the penalty (huge sighs of relief that it wasn't Harry), and only just scored - Hedman getting fingertips to the ball as it passed him.
So, we're 3-2 up and we get to half-time. Hopefully some crockery was launched in the dressing room - but it made no difference to the 2nd half. A speculative pass by McAllister ricocheted off two Leeds players before landing unexpectedly at Hadji's feet. Hadji laid an immaculate ball on for Chippo, and for the third time Nige found himself picking the ball out of his net, having had little chance of stopping it.
All was not lost, and with Jon Woodgate replacing the injured Duberry, and Gary Kelly replacing Ian Harte at left-back it appeared that we had a defence at long last. Harry Kewell made a good run down the left before smashing a shot against the post. The rebound hit Hedman and sat up nicely for Michael Bridges to make it 4-3.
The final 30 minutes were something of an anti-climax. Harry Kewell looked exhausted and/or injured - and took too long over yet another one-on-one situation (I make that 5 this season), and we just gave them far too much space in the centre of the park. Still, it's three points away from home - I just hope we don't make such hard work of all the other away games.
ANY SCORE YOU CAN SCORE .....
There are many occasions when you have time to reflect on why you bother with all the expense, hassle and cruel disappointment from following football. If you want a glib answer, look no further than the simple phrase "Coventry 3, Leeds 4."
Despite going down to yet another dubious penalty before we'd even had time to think about sitting down (we didn't bother), I never once thought we were going to lose. Admittedly, our defending was poor at times, but Coventry's rearguard was permanently shocking, and we looked like scoring with every attack, especially in the first half.
The highlight of the match came as we trailed 2-1, inspiring Coventry into stringing at least five consecutive passes together. The home fans, obviously giddily excited at this rare spectable, began cheering every pass, only to have their cheers ripped from their throats as Kewell won the ball, fed Batty who sent Huckerby clear to flick the ball agonisingly slowly past the oncoming Hedman. I swear, the comedic timing of it all could not have been excelled by the late, great Les Dawson. We then gleefully aped the Coventry fans' oh-so brief cheering spree periodically for the rest of the game. Priceless.
The second period predictably failed to live up to the first crazy 45 minutes, but at least we were treated to the goal of the game from Chippo (which we had a perfect view of) and the rare sight of a Kewell (more on him later) attempt almost on target, leading to Bridges' tap in for the winner.
As we remembered how to defend and the home team ran out of ideas, the game slowly petered out. By the end the players looked dead on their feet - mind you, so did we in the stands!
A few points to note:
- Duberry was better than I expected, despite possibly having the slowest feet I have ever seen. However, we looked much more solid once Woody replaced him, as the youngster looked at least a yard ahead of "Doobs" in thought and deed.
- It was great to see Kelly back (and the rest of the Leeds fans agreed), and he slotted into an unfamiliar left back slot very ably.
- Kewell is starting to drive me bloody bonkers. He seems to be believing some of the rather silly hype about him in the papers, and, much worse, taking lazy and greedy lessons off Hasselbaink. His half-hearted granny jogs back after another losing posession after running up yet another blind alley would have had the Rev spontaneously combusting with all the pent-up rage accumulated since Jimmy's Peseta-inspired departure. His failure to score seems to be affecting his confidence quite visibly, such as near the end when his hesitation in front of goal allowed an opponent to put in an admittedly superb saving tackle. The lad has the ability, but he needs the composure and attitude to match it.
Booed at his every move, taunted mercilessly by fans angered by his sending-off in a crucial international, yet the best player on the pitch; England's latest scapegoat named David has borne the brunt of his country's frustrations since the poleaxing in Warsaw. Not that it showed.
David Batty takes such minor inconveniences in his stride. Leeds's inspiration in their hugely entertaining victory over Coventry and an elder statesman in a side bristling with youth, the midfielder is having the time of his life.
"It's a great team to play in," said the 30-year-old. "Everyone's so enthusiastic and willing to work hard and if you do that you get a lot of success. Hopefully the young lads can gain from my experience and their youthfulness can rub off on me."
© Guardian Media Group plc