Slack Spurs fail to contain hotshot Aloisi

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The Independent Online

More than anything else, this was the Premiership match - probably the only one yesterday - not to involve a potential England manager. Neither Gordon Strachan nor George Graham are on the FA's short-list but, as proud Scots, they had their own private battle to contend with. Incredibly, Strachan did not do any shouting until the last, frantic 20 minutes, after Carlton Palmer had been sent-off for an apparent push on Chris Perry. Conversely, it took just 30 minutes for the Spurs fans to demand the resignation of their manager. A few more results like this one, and their wish may yet come true.

More than anything else, this was the Premiership match - probably the only one yesterday - not to involve a potential England manager. Neither Gordon Strachan nor George Graham are on the FA's short-list but, as proud Scots, they had their own private battle to contend with. Incredibly, Strachan did not do any shouting until the last, frantic 20 minutes, after Carlton Palmer had been sent-off for an apparent push on Chris Perry. Conversely, it took just 30 minutes for the Spurs fans to demand the resignation of their manager. A few more results like this one, and their wish may yet come true.

Both managers were forced to give their second choice goalkeepers a rare start, as Tottenham's Neil Sullivan was suspended and Coventry's Magnus Hedman was absent due to a knee injury he picked up playing for Sweden inmid-week.

Any hope that the presence of the two deputies might lead to an avalanche of goals was dashed, though, as both Ian Walker and Chris Kirkland had good games. Walker, the one-time England No 2, could not be blamed for either of Coventry's two first-half goals - a thunderous left-footed strike from the Australian international John Aloisi after 12 minutes, which was struck with inch-perfect precision from 25 yards, and an easy tap-in for John Eustace on 26 minutes.

Strachan has been like a chef under pressure in the last 15 months, manically running around his kitchen trying to attend to various problems. Last year, Coventry were unable to win away from Highfield Road; this season, they appeared incapable of reproducing the home form which has so often helped the Sky Blues preserve their status in the top flight for the last 34 years. Maitre Strachan will be praying he has finally found the right recipe for success.

Yesterday, Coventry seemed to have turned the corner. Having weathered an early Tottenham onslaught, the home side regrouped and slowly started to assert themselves. Youssef Chippo and Carlton Palmer took control of central midfield, while the two wide men, Eustace on the right and the wonderfully gifted Moustapha Hadji on the opposite flank, tore the Tottenham back-four apart.

Whatever happened to the defensive prowess of Ben Thatcher and Chris Perry, both purchased for £5m apiece from Wimbledon in the last two years? Both were poor yesterday, as was Stephen Carr, who was too often turned by Hadji.

But the worst culprit was Ramon Vega. The Swiss player was at fault for both Coventry's goals and his days could be numbered at White Hart Lane.

Spurs got the talking to they deserved at half-time, and the luck their performance had scarcely merited seven minutes after the break, when Richard Shaw's slip let in Oyvind Leonhardsen. The Norwegian international then slipped the ball past Gary Breen, into the path of Sergei Rebrov, who showed tremendous composure to slot a curling shot passed Kirkland.

The goal spurred Tottenham into action. Darren Anderton and Tim Sherwood pushed forward more and, as a result, the visitors were creating a number of chances for the hard-working Les Ferdinand. Palmer's expulsion, for raising an arm against Perry after 70 minutes, only added to Tottenham's resolve, as they poured forward looking for the equaliser. Graham sent on both Steffen Iversen and Jose Dominguez late on, but Coventry somehow held on to a welldeserved maiden home win.

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