Football: Coventry fill void as Boateng exits early

Leicester City 0 Coventry City 3
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The Independent Online
IF EVER a scoreline was misleading, this would be it. Coventry, on the back foot for the entire second half following George Boateng's bizarre dismissal, were hanging on by their fingertips to a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup for the third season running when Leicester, who had spurned half a dozen clear chances to draw level, won a corner with two minutes to play.

Steve Guppy's reliable left foot swung it over and there was captain Steve Walsh, unmarked at the far post and seemingly certain to score. Instead, his downward header merely sparked a scramble in the Coventry six-yard area but, with almost the entire Leicester team surrounding it, the ball somehow eluded them all. Coventry's Noel Whelan broke away and fed Paul Telfer, who raced through to end the contest. Another breakaway goal by Steve Froggatt in injury time was harsh on Leicester.

Having said that, their manager Martin O'Neill can hardly complain. Playing at home, against a team with only 10 men for 45 minutes, they had ample opportunity to at least repeat the 1-1 scoreline the last time these two sides met in the Cup, back in 1952.

On that occasion Coventry won the replay 4-1 so maybe it would have been fruitless anyway, but O'Neill was still cursing his luck after Emile Heskey and Muzzy Izzet each missed two good chances to equalise. Had either scored the decision to play Izzet up front in the absence of the injured Tony Cottee could hardly have been criticised, but with hindsight Leicester may have been better served with Izzet and Neil Lennon together in midfield.

The pattern of the game after the break had been determined by three incidents before it. Whelan's exquisite shot from the angle of the penalty area that gave Coventry the lead came amid a spate of bookings, and when O'Neill attempted to return the ball to one of his players for a quick throw-in, Boateng became the sixth to go into Alan Wilkie's notebook after blocking O'Neill's throw with his hands.

Deliberate handball? Surely not. Time-wasting, perhaps, but it was a moot point and Boateng was clearly riled as, two minutes later, he crashed into Theo Zagorakis on the edge of the Coventry area and was shown the red card.

Had that influenced the result, the mutual respect between two of the most demonstrative managers in the Premiership would have been tested to the limit, as Coventry's Gordon Strachan was clearly displeased that O'Neill had appealed to the referee to discipline Boateng.

As it is Strachan, for once, had little to moan about and must be hoping his side has turned a corner in recent weeks. For O'Neill and Leicester, there are only two paths they can go and they will do well to avoid the one that sees Coventry coming the other way.

Goals: Whelan (16) 0-1; Telfer (89) 0-2; Froggatt (90) 0-3.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Keller; Sinclair, Elliott, Walsh, Ullathorne (Taggart, 75); Impey, Zagorakis (Parker, 61), Lennon, Guppy; Izzet, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Kaamark, Wilson, Arphexad (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Burrows; Boateng, Soltvedt, McAllister (Clement, 77), Froggatt; Whelan, Huckerby (Telfer, 85). Substitutes not used: Breen, Aloisi, Ogrizovic (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Bookings: Leicester: Izzet, Sinclair. Coventry: Burrows, Williams, Edworthy. Sending off: Coventry: Boateng.

Man of the match: Hedman.

Attendance: 21,207.

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