Football: Ailing Chelsea

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Chelsea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Coventry City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

COVENTRY continue to enjoy themselves at the expense of the teams who had retained a share in the destination of the major prizes. On Monday they ended the Premiership challenge of Blackburn and last night they knocked the confidence of a Chelsea side who have to believe they can beat Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

The damage meted out to the Londoners should not be as critical as that sustained by Kenny Dalglish's Rovers. These were not potential Cup winners performing before a sub-9,000 crowd, Stamford Bridge's lowest of the season, largely because this was not the real Chelsea.

With injuries continuing to keep the treatment room up to capacity and a virus removing Gavin Peacock and Jakob Kjeldberg before the start only six of the side Glenn Hoddle would prefer to send out at Wembley in nine days' time were on duty.

For the most threatening noises you had to look no further than the pacy Peter Ndlovu. After 15 minutes he was unfortunate to find Dmitri Kharin well positioned to field his stab from a right-wing cross.

He did better 17 minutes later when Steve Morgan worked the ball across. The man with the lightning feet confounded Erland Johnsen by turning first this way and then that to produce the opening for a delicately executed shot over the goalkeeper.

Within two minutes, Coventry had doubled their lead, a well-struck free-kick from Morgan provoking questions as to Chelsea's defensive organisation as it ripped through the wall.

Until then we had seen little of Chelsea, a couple of long- range efforts underlining the poverty of their ambition. They reduced the deficit before half-time when Tony Cascarino easily outjumped Jonathan Gould to steer his header into the empty net. But it was not enough and Hoddle was left to lament the passing of an unbeaten home run stretching back to November.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharin; Clarke, Duberry, Johnsen, Sinclair; Burley, Newton, Hopkin (Donaghy, 84), Barnard; Fleck, Cascarino. Substitutes not used: Spackman, Hitchcock (gk).

Coventry (4-4-2): Gould; Borrows, Atherton, Babb, Morgan; Boland, Rennie, Darby, Jenkinson; Ndlovu, Flynn. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Pickering, Ogrizovic (gk).

Referee: J Borrett (Gt Yarmouth).