Football: Dublin exposes Chelsea's flaw

Coventry City 3 Chelsea 2
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The Independent Online
Coventry cynics, particularly in the light of this unscheduled victory, would no doubt warn Chelsea of the danger of getting carried away by fleeting Wembley glory. It may not seem like it but it is exactly 10 years ago that the Sky Blues pulled off their great FA Cup triumph and John Sillett, their then manager, spoke grandly of shopping from then on at Harrods rather than Woolworth's. Promises, promises.

For the King's Road club that famous department store has almost been their local corner shop (although now it's more like Fulham's), a point which Ruud Gullit emphasised only last Friday when the purchase of Graeme Le Saux took his expenditure on players to over pounds 11m for a second successive summer.

If there is a criticism to be made of the apprentice Dutch coach, it is that even after such exorbitant spending he has still failed to eradicate fundamental flaws in Chelsea's defensive play and until such time as he does it is folly to talk of Chelsea as potential champions.

It would be a mistake, too, to believe that none of these troubles would exist but for the long-term injury to Mike Duberry and that they are only really noticeable when Chelsea are also without his replacement, Franck Leboeuf. A susceptibility to crosses has been evident for some time, and the man in goal has to accept the lion's share of responsibility. Gullit has tried four different keepers all to no avail although the latest, fellow Dutchman Ed de Goey, looks worth persevering with.

Gullit declined to point the finger of suspicion, however, describing it as a "squad thing". What must have been particularly disconcerting for him was that, knowing they were to face the aerial menace of Dion Dublin, the team spent much of Friday working on how to counter it. You would never have guessed it, though. Dublin scored twice with his head, one a looping effort direct from a long John Salako throw-in, the other a near-post sitter. Though he completed his hat-trick with foot, it was only after an errant header by Leboeuf, which delighted the Highfield Road crowd no end; they had not forgiven the Frenchman for treating a Coventry jersey with disdain last spring when Chelsea, on another losing visit, were forced to borrow one of their kits.

The absurdity of it all was that Chelsea, comfortably the better side, should have been so far ahead after 35 minutes' play that it ought not to have mattered whether they had De Goey in goal or Ronnie Corbett. By then Dan Petrescu alone had passed up on a hat-trick of chances, an unfortunately common occurrence with this adventurous wing-back, while the Uruguayan, Gustavo Poyet, posed an even greater aerial threat than Dublin.

Even at 2-1 up, courtesy of Tore Andre Flo's first goal for the club, the game should have been killed stone dead, but the lanky Norwegian, a substitute for Mark Hughes, blasted wide from a patently offside position. Gianluca Vialli, even further overlooked, must, along with the Coventry bench, have breathed a sigh of relief at that one.

Goals: Sinclair (39) 0-1; Dublin (40) 1-1; Flo (71) 1-2; Dublin (82) 2-2; Dublin 3-2 (88).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Ogrizovic; Breen (Boland, 80), Shaw, Williams, Burrows: Telfer, McAllister, Soltvedt, Salako; Dublin, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Richardson, Hall, Hedman (gk).

Chelsea (3-5-2): De Goey; Sinclair, Leboeuf, Clarke; Petrescu, Di Matteo (Morris, 80), Wise, Poyet, Le Saux; M Hughes (Flo, 67), Zola. Substitutes not used: Vialli, Granville, Colgan (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland). Bookings: Coventry Williams, Burrows, Huckerby, Lightbourne. Chelsea Wise, Leboeuf, M Hughes.

Man of the match: Dublin. Attendance: 22,686.

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