Coppell draws measure of relief

QPR 2 Sinclair 22, Murray 30 Manchester City 2 Brightwell 31, Kinkladze pen 81 Attendance: 16,265
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The Independent Online
At Last Steve Coppell was relieved. Manchester City, the troubled club at which he became manager five days earlier, deserved to win at Loftus Road, but after trailing for an hour, they only secured a draw with nine minutes left. More than three years away from managership and Coppell was taken through all the old, familiar emotional hoops in his first match back.

"I was nervous in the morning and coming to the game," he said afterwards, barely able to contain his smile. "But when I got into the dressing-room it was all right. I didn't feel like a new manager but as though I'd been there a while." Coppell made no bold predictions or rash promises. He and everybody else, he estimated, would know better what the future might hold after the first batch of four matches.

But the first one could hardly have been more uplifting except in terms of the points it yielded. City began as the more fluent side and though they contrived to go two goals behind, they responded with genuine verve. "I had to redirect a couple of things," Coppell said. It worked. Throughout the second half they controlled possession and territory long before their second goal arrived.

Bar and post intervened regularly and at least two penalty appeals were refused. Rangers, young and naive, were content to live dangerously.

It was entirely appropriate that the wonderful Georgian Georgi Kinkladze should fashion the equaliser. He jinked this way and that and unveiled a crisp left-foot shot. It was kept out only by Andrew Impey's hand. Impey, having been booked earlier, was sent off for his alert save and Kinkladze scored from the penalty.

Coppell admitted he had begun to think it was one of those days. "But then the little man produced a bit of magic," he said, referring to Kinkladze. Coppell must hope to persuade the Georgian wizard that both their futures lie at City.

If City had shortcomings it was in their ponderous defensive work. This was responsible for their going behind, somewhat against the run of play, in the 23rd minute when Andy Dibble felt it necessary to dash out of his area to clear with a header. The contact was firm enough but it went only as far as Trevor Sinclair, who retorted with a devilish, swirling lob. It was a splendid goal, sure to impress any manager wondering if the transfer-listed Sinclair might be worth signing.

City, thus disrupted, fell further behind when Eddie McGoldrick failed to intercept a header. It fell to the unmarked Paul Murray, who took full advantage of his free shot.

City were at least fortunate that they came back so quickly. Within seconds, Ian Brightwell's volley off the underside of the bar thundered over the line. City swept forward thereafter, their wonky defence that was surely the subject of Coppell's copious note-taking never again threatened.

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