Football: Iversen inspires tired Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Coventry City 2
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THERE WAS no European hangover for Spurs, more European elixir. Thursday night's Uefa Cup win over Zimbru Chisinau looks as if it has put a strut in the cockerel's step and for their third home Premiership game, Spurs scored three goals.

"It's this new approach that I've got," joked George Graham as he savoured the goals from Steffen Iversen, Chris Armstrong and Oyvind Leonhardsen. "We're delighted to be in Europe," he added. "I hope we have the same problem next year. If we have to play all these games that's great."

The only downside for the Spurs manager was that the European game had had the affect of sapping some of his players' strength. "We made some basic defensive errors and allowed Coventry back into the game. Then we looked a tired team."

If Coventry carry out their threat to take legal action against the Premier League over Carlton Palmer's late registration after his loan move from Nottingham Forest, then the yesterday's display must have only hardened their litigious resolve.

Gordon Strachan deployed Paul Williams - a central defender - in the midfield holding role and paired Muhamed Konjic and Richard Shaw at the heart of defence. It was a combination that did not take Spurs too long to unlock.

Ten minutes into the match, Mauricio Taricco sent a deep inswinging cross into the Coventry penalty area and Steffen Iversen, arriving between Shaw and David Burrows, volleyed home spectacularly. Soon after, the Norwegian arrived just a fraction too late to connect with Chris Armstrong's low cross from the right.

Another deep cross, this time from David Ginola, again created pandemonium as Iversen ghosted in between Shaw and Burrows, but this time Magnus Hedman saved with his feet.

Coventry, reorganised their back line, switching Shaw's and Konjic's positions. However, their confidence was not helped by their colleagues' inability to retain possession.

Coventry' manager, Gordon Strachan, said: "At the moment the players haven't got a game they can trust. They need to get back to a basic pattern they can trust. From now on we will pick the mentally strongest. We've done it before, so we will do it again."

If Spurs had started the game at a brisk trot, after the restart Graham's side came out of the dressing-room at a gallop. In the 50th minute, Ginola's deep corner from the left, was met with a venomous header from Iversen. Armstrong was in the way of the Norwegian's goal-bound effort, but the striker redeemed himself by turning quickly and firing a low shot into the corner of the net.

Spurs probed the left of Coventry's defence two minutes later, and were again rewarded with rich pickings. The Konjic and Burrows partnership proved just as insecure when Iversen's perceptive pass released Leonhardsen and the former Liverpool midfielder finished with aplomb.

Graham's side were coasting, but they suddenly found themselves sand- banked as Coventry at last began to threaten. In the 54th minute, Keane, found by Edworthy, turned Chris Perry with ease and slotted the ball home.

Mustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo began to combine effectively and with a quarter of an hour left the Moroccans played a one-two and, although Chippo saw Ian Walker block his shot, he scored with the follow-up.

Goals: Iversen (8) 1-0; Armstrong (50) 2-0; Leonhardsen (52) 3-0; Keane (54 ) 3-1; Chippo (75) 3-2.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Young, Perry, Taricco; Leonhardsen, Freund, Sherwood, Ginola (Dominguez, 59); Iversen, Armstrong (Nielsen, 85). Substitutes not used: Edinburgh, King, Baardsen (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Edworthy, Shaw, Konjic, Burrows (P Hall, 83); Chippo, Williams, McAllister, Froggatt (M Hall, 59); Keane, Hadji. Substitutes not used: Breen, Strachan, Nuzzo (gk).

Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).

Bookings: Tottenham Hotspur: Armstrong. Coventry: Hadji, Shaw, Konjic.

Man of the match: Iversen.

Attendance: 35,224.