Football: Coppell coaxes City revival

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers 2 Manchester City 2

Sitting alongside Francis Lee in the directors' box, Steve Coppell took out a pad and started scribbling: 30 minutes played, City two down. Tough for the new manager, tough for his beleaguered chairman.

From bad to worse? A minute later and City were back in the game, rewarded for their earlier initiative when Ian Brightwell blasted in a Steve Lomas centre off the underside of the crossbar. Coppell pocketed his pen, Lee nodded.

Smart-suited, not a hair out of place, Coppell looked more like the director of football he was at Crystal Palace than a man charged with conveying knowledge and experience on the training ground. Perhaps Coppell has not yet found a tracksuit that fits, but he preferred the stand to the touchline.

Then, shortly before half-time, Coppell was off, darting from his seat to the dressing-room. "Well, he's got a few things to sort out," my companion, the former Welsh international full-back Rod Thomas, said. Friendly with Lee since they turned out for Dave Mackay at Derby County and helped to win a League championship, Thomas cast an experienced eye over the problems Coppell is charged with solving. Not that you need any more than normal vision. As Lee said afterwards, there is not any future in giving the opposition two goals' start no matter how well you come back at them.

These are difficult times, too, for Rangers and their new manager, Stewart Houston: injuries, an under-strength squad and the probability that Trevor Sinclair, who put in a transfer request last week, will soon be turning out in different colours.

The quite remarkable 40-yard lob with which Sinclair gave Rangers the lead - "I've told Trevor to get a video of it to show his grandchildren," Houston said - emphasised the disappointment felt by their supporters.

Leading up to it were errors that caused Coppell and Lee to engage in conversation. A misunderstanding with Eddie McGoldrick left Andy Dibble to head clear, and before the City goalkeeper could regain his line Sinclair's stunning effort found the top corner.

Under Coppell's direction - Uwe Rosler was given a more central role in attack and Georgio Kinkladze sent further forward - City began to take the game over. Making the mistake of conceding space in midfield, Rangers came under heavy pressure, especially from Kinkladze's tormenting ball skills.

Even when the little Georgian attempts one trick too many, something that clearly irritates his team-mates, the all-round initiative is pleasing. What Coppell needs to find is a way of getting the best out of him.

Denied by both uprights, the crossbar and frantic Rangers defending, City were cursing their luck when Kinkladze produced a moment of magic that led to Andy Impey fisting a goal-bound chip off the line. Impey was sent off for a second booking, and Kinkladze scored from the penalty. "The way things were going for us it wouldn't have surprised me if he'd missed," Lee said afterwards.

No support is held out here for the present glut of bookings, but it has to be said that the seven in referee John Brandwood's book were either the result of inadequate technique or downright stupidity. One of the things that strikes you about English football is that players in the main simply do not know how to tackle correctly or protect themselves from injury. "A lot of the time they are asking for trouble," Thomas said. "Body shape is all wrong, timing awful."

Brandwood refereed a hard game with commendable discretion. In this case the players only had themselves to blame. Something else for Coppell and Houston to consider in their quieter moments.

Goals: Sinclair (22) 1-0; Murray (30) 2-0; Brightwell (31) 2-1; Kinkladze (81 pen) 2-2.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Sommer; Ready, Brevett, Barker, McDonald; Murray, Quashie, (Brazier, 81), Graham, Slade (Charles, 72); Impey, Sinclair. Substitute not used: Plummer.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; Brightwell, McGoldrick, Lomas, Symons; Wasall, Summerbee, Clough, Dickov (Kavelashvili, 81); Kinkladze, Rosler. Substitutes not used: Frontzeck, Whitley.

Referee: M Brandwood (Lichfield).

Sending-off: Impey (second booking, 80). Bookings: QPR: Sinclair, McDonald. City: Lomas, Rosler, McGoldrick.

Man of the match: Kinkladze.

Attendance: 16,265.