Football: Dublin takes the gifts

Coventry City 3 Dublin 41, 82, 88 Chelsea 2 Sinclair 39, Flo 71 Attendance: 22,686
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The Independent Online
No matter how fluent and articulate Ruud Gullit's English may be, he would have to have resorted to street Dutch to indulge in the public house vituperation demanded by this Chelsea debacle. Strolling into the last 10 minutes 2-1 ahead, they collapsed, handing two goals to Dion Dublin on a plate to give him a hat-trick and the best morale-booster the ever- struggling Coventry needed to start the season.

Even the reliable Steve Ogrizovic must have blushed when Frank Sinclair's shot flashed inside the Coventry goalkeeper's near post to put the visitors ahead in the 39th minute. But barely a minute had passed before David Burrows found Dublin's head with a lob and his gentle header crept into the net.

The towering Ed de Goey in the Chelsea goal had chosen not to challenge for the cross and was nowhere when the header crossed his line. But Chelsea, always streets ahead in inventiveness and imagination, were somewhat blunted when Mark Hughes was substituted in the 68th minute. The Welshman had just been booked and had endured an hour of Paul Williams trying to swap shirts with him before the final whistle. Gullit decided he had better allow his striker to cool off and sent on Tore Andre Flo.

Within three minutes Gianfranco Zola had picked out the big Norwegian's forehead and Chelsea were ahead again. The visitors were moving into a smoother gear and only Ogrizovic's speed of thought and bravery when he smothered Zola's shot kept Chelsea from moving further ahead.

The aura of superior complacency that was creeping into Chelsea's play was shattered eight minutes from time when Gary McAllister's corner was met unchallenged by Dublin to head Coventry's second equaliser.

Two minutes from time Franck Leboeuf - an impassible barrier hitherto for Coventry's strikers - misjudged Paul Telfer's deep cross and the ball grazed the defender's head before carrying to Dublin, who calmly shot past De Goey for victory and his hat-trick.