Football: Dublin penalty draws the Arsenal sting

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The Independent Online
Coventry City 2

Whelan 21, Dublin pen 66

Arsenal 2

Bergkamp 50, Anelka 57

Attendance: 22,864

DION DUBLIN marked what is expected to be his last Coventry appearance before a proposed pounds 4m move to Middlesbrough with an equalising penalty in a match which featured two dismissals and chances for about 10 goals at either end, all played out in front of a vibrant crowd.

Coventry blew Arsenal away in the first half but only led by a single goal from Noel Whelan, paying heavily for their profligacy as Arsenal stole ahead shortly after the restart with strikes from Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka.

While neither team are likely to work so hard for just one point again, Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, is unlikely to be so angry again, with the Barnsley referee Steve Lodge the cause of his ire.

"That referee was an absolute disgrace, a joke," Strachan said. "We deserved to win hands down and my players worked their hearts out for absolutely nothing. We have been working morning, noon and night to win football matches and we've got nothing from referees. The FA can come after me if they like." And with that, he was gone.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, remained calm, saying the referee had been under enormous pressure from players and crowd alike. He did voice concern about his side's lack of discipline, despite also praising their fighting spirit. "In the first half we were beaten too many times in the fight and we had to become more physical in the second half if we were to get something out of the game and I am very proud of my team."

The French coach would not have been so happy had his side maintained their first-half form, which saw them control the game until Whelan struck in the 20th minute and then collapse. David Seaman was outstanding in the Arsenal goal, but Darren Huckerby alone could have scored at least a hat-trick before the break.

Arsenal regained their fighting spirit after the interval and Bergkamp anticipated a back-pass from Paul Williams to nip in and lob the stranded Magnus Hedman to equalise in the 50th minute. Anelka, starting the game in place of the injured Ian Wright, took advantage of a fumble by the unfortunate goalkeeper to bundle home Arsenal's second seven minutes later, stabbing in the loose ball at the second attempt.

But the fun had only just begun. Vieira, accidentally or not, handled a Paul Telfer cross in the 66th minute, but was sent off for using foul and abusive language in protesting his innocence to Lodge and was dismissed outright, irrespective of his first-half booking for a foul. Dublin stayed cool and beat Seaman from the spot.

As Arsenal chased a third, Bergkamp broke clear and was tripped from behind by Williams. The referee's red card came out for a second time before Bergkamp blazed his free-kick over the bar.

Both sides had further chances to score in a frantic finale and the Coventry supporters who had booed Dublin on to the pitch decided to jeer Arsenal off. They should have applauded a game of football which only two English sides could have produced.

Ian Wright profile, page 3