Football: Ball's new game

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The Independent Online
Coventry City. . . .1

Dublin 2

Southampton. . . . .3

Dowie 19, 55, Ekelund 82

Attendance: 11,784

ALAN BALL'S disrespect for convention paid dividends in a performance which belied his side's stuttering start to the season. His attacking formation is impossible to pigeon-hole and Coventry found it almost as difficult to defend against.

Everyone knows about Matthew Le Tissier's contribution, magnetically attracting the ball and magnificently distributing it. Not everyone will know about Ronnie Ekelund, unconventionally acquired by Ball from Barcelona in a form of hire-purchase arrangement.

Ekelund's ease on the ball is comparable with Le Tissier's, as you would expect from a Johan Cruyff fledgling, and, his partnership with Le Tissier (their first for a full game) gave the only conventional part of Southampton's attack, Iain Dowie, more room to manoeuvre.

The Southampton manager acknowledged the 21-year-old Dane's contribution, saying: 'It was only his first full game, and I don't want to get carried away but I think you saw a fantastic footballer out there.'

Ball's side certainly enjoyed all the quality possession, always controlled and with ample options available through their fluid formation. The chief beneficiaries were Jeff Kenna and Paul Allen on the right flank, frequently released by the golden boot of Le Tissier.

Their first goal came when a crossfield pass from Le Tissier reached Dowie, who for once had beaten a clumsy offside trap. A delicate chip evaded the approaching keeper Steve Ogrizovic.

Ekelund's cross 10 minutes into a more open second half provided Dowie's second, a clean diving header. The third followed a brutal spell of Southampton pressure, Ekelund earning his reward with eight minutes to go after being released into the box by a Jim Magilton wall pass.

Coventry were never allowed to impose themselves and their approach work lacked Southampton's imagination and thrust. Both Dion Dublin and Cobi Jones, who showed the effort - but also the end product - of a hamster on a wheel, were both more effective in defensive duties.

Dublin's goal, a deft lob over Bruce Grobbelaar after only two minutes, was Phil Neal's only crumb of comfort.