Coventry 1 - 1 Arsenal
(Dublin 2, Wright 19 pen)
Report by By Henry Winter of the Telegraph
Thoroughly entertaining draw, full of movement and commitment, will have pleased Coventry City more than Arsenal, whose lingering championship ambitions surely disappeared at Highfield Road last night.
Arsenal, now four points behind Manchester United having played two games more, could even have lost such was the desire shown by Coventry, who enjoyed the better chances throughout.
Dion Dublin gave the Sky Blues the ideal start but Ian Wright's 28th goal of the season, followed by an injury to Dublin, tempered Coventry's enthusiasm.
Inspired by the evergreen Gordon Strachan, Coventry probably deserved more than this, their eighth point from 12, which keeps them in 15th place on goal difference from Blackburn Rovers.
Coventry's recent revival had been precipitated by the return of Strachan, whose heart-on-sleeve contributions had clearly stirred his players, previously seemingly consumed by inertia. Coventry's player-manager was magnificent in the first half, charging around the field, geeing up his players and taking on Arsenal's.
The WD40 had done its work, Strachan's limbs carrying him smoothly across Highfield Road's excellent pitch. How Alex Ferguson would have been proud of his old boys, Strachan and Dublin, as they took the game to the Premiership's second-placed side.
Within a minute, Coventry were ahead. Noel Whelan, whose pace and persistence were much needed in midfield, slipped the ball right to Strachan, who ventured forth with the enthusiasm of a teenager. Sadly, Strachan's pace, at 40, was not enough to resist the attentions of Patrick Vieira, who regained possession comfortably.
But then Arsenal's normally sound defensive principles let them down. Vieira, hustled back by Strachan, put Tony Adams under pressure and the England international's clearance was eagerly seized by Peter Ndlovu, who teed up Gary McAllister. The Scot shot well enough but the ball deflected to Dublin. From 15 yards out, Dublin beat David Seaman with a low shot from right to left.
Arsenal's rearguard were creaking alarmingly, unable to deal with the energetic movement and thought patterns of Strachan or Dublin's considerable presence. Dublin proved the perfect target for Coventry's attacks. After 18 minutes, Nigel Winterburn showed the value of keeping full-backs on posts when he repelled Dublin's effort from McAllister's corner.
Arsenal, misfiring badly, clawed their way back into contention through an error by Steve Ogrizovic. Paul Merson's through-ball looked to have run away from the combative Ian Wright until Ogrizovic gathered and then dropped. Wright, reacting with trademark alacrity, swept the ball past Coventry's hapless goalkeeper, who brought him down.
The punishment was inevitable, Wright confidently driving the penalty past Ogrizovic. Wright's celebrations were accompanied by prolonged booing from Coventry's fans, who remembered Ogrizovic claiming the Arsenal striker had bloodied his nose earlier in the season.
Such enmity was forgotten as a terrific half continued to unfold. Dennis Bergkamp, enjoying such a fine season, was denied by David Burrows almost on the line. Arsenal's graceful Dutchman then produced the first half's most sublime moment of skill, nutmegging Richard Shaw at high speed.
Coventry, hungrily competitive, kept seeking another breakthrough but their cause was not assisted by the 35th-minute departure of Dublin, who disappeared down the tunnel rubbing his ankle.
Huckerby's introduction forced Coventry to re-address their sights, sliding balls into space for Huckerby to run on to rather than taking the high road.
Huckerby began the second half in busy fashion, shooting wide before lifting in a cross which Ndlovu flicked to Paul Telfer, who directed his header wide from routine scoring range. Telfer's low cross, just after the hour, crashed into Lee Dixon's hand, bringing screams for a penalty but Keith Burge waved play on.
Last Updated: Tuesday April 22, 1997 10:39:56 GMT Daylight Time
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