Football: Ince in the shadow of Dutchman

Coventry City 2 Liverpool 1

JUST WHEN it seemed they had rediscovered consistency, Liverpool slipped into old habits, turning in a performance that simply was not adequate against a Coventry side who deserve better than to be worrying about relegation.

Whether it was the news, finally confirmed, that Steve McManaman really is to leave in the summer, or whether it was the after-shock from the FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford, something put Liverpool off their stroke. Gerard Houllier may wonder if the revival of the last month was an illusion.

"We had chances but we also made mistakes and in the Premiership if you make a mistake you have to pay," the Frenchman said. His grasp of English is such that the pat explanations fall from his tongue quite effortlessly.

But he did allude, more meaningfully, to Coventry's spirit; and in a way from which it was understood that he felt Liverpool's was lacking. "They [Coventry] are fighting for their lives," he said, "but we have a fight, too, to get back to the top. Coventry wanted very much to win today."

Naturally, he singled out no one for criticism, excusing David James for letting in the goals on the grounds that his saves have won matches on other occasions. But if he fingers anyone in private it may well be Paul Ince, whose failure to impose himself has lately become an all-too- regular occurrence.

The England player famous for the curling lip and crunching tackle was out-fought and out-growled by George Boateng, the former Dutch Under-21 captain who did precisely the same when these sides met at Highfield Road 13 months ago.

Boateng, 23 and full of energy and power, was a good yard keener than 31-year-old Ince in almost every robust challenge. Then again, he is more Bryan Robson than Ince, a player managers like to call a good box-to-box man. But if the goal he scored, a diving header, came from commitment and courage, the one he set up came with a subtle touch, a precisely lobbed pass that invited the willing Noel Whelan to put Coventry in control. What a pity, Glenn Hoddle may have mused as he watched from the directors' box, that he had not been born - sorry, reincarnated - an Englishman.

That Gordon Strachan, who clearly has an eye for a bargain, could sign him for just pounds 250,000 is extraordinary. One can only assume that his previous club, Feyenoord, where his contract was running out when Coventry stepped in, made an enormous blunder.

Boateng's drive and Gary McAllister's nous on a sticky pitch that did not suit Jamie Redknapp gave Coventry a decisive edge, even though it took them an hour to impose themselves. The threat from Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler did not emerge until Coventry lost right-back Roland Nilsson at half-time and even then it was not until Houllier went for broke, sending on McManaman and Karl-Heinz Riedle, that the home side came under sustained attack.

Rigobert Song, the pounds 2.5m Cameroon international, created a favourable impression in the 68 minutes he had in Liverpool's back three but Houllier needs to bring in further, high quality reinforcements, both alongside Song and further up the field before his side can mount a challenge of genuine substance.

Goals: Boateng (60) 1-0; Whelan (71) 2-0; McManaman (86) 2-1.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson (Breen, 45), Williams, Shaw, Burrows; Boateng, McAllister, Soltvedt, Froggatt; Whelan, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Gioacchino, Clement, Aloisi, Ogrizovic (gk).

Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Song (McManaman, 68), Staunton (Gerrard 86), Matteo; Heggem, Redknapp, Ince, Berger (Riedle 77), Bjornebye; Fowler, Owen. Substitutes not used: Harkness, Friedel (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Liverpool: Heggem, Song.

Man of the match: Boateng.

Attendance: 23,056.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and artistic director Matthew Warchus at the Old Vic party to honour Spacey
theatreStar's successor at Old Vic theatre admits he's 'allergic to hype'
Life and Style
life + healthVirginia Ironside's dilemma, during Depression Awareness Week
Arts and Entertainment
The median income for professional writers is just £10,432, less than the minimum wage
booksSurvey reveals authors' earnings
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders