Football: Leeds show limitations

Coventry City 0 Leeds United 0 Attendance:17,770
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The Independent Online
A Few weeks ago George Graham delved into his considerable gift for making mischief and said, no problem, Arsenal, his old club, would be champions. More seriously, he admitted that Leeds were a long haul from championship material. Defeating Manchester United certainly helped Arsenal but yesterday at Highfield Road there was little to refute Graham's views on his own team's limitations.

The knives that were out for Graham had been hastily returned to their sheathes after last weekend's pacifying win over United, but they remain sharp and ready. In a way, beating United was not such a huge surprise. Graham has always been a master of tactical forethought against teams more talented than his own. Coventry did not come into that category, yet their only league defeats so far had come forgiveably against Arsenal and Manchester United.

Much of Coventry's defiance against the odds over the past 14 years has been because of the large presence in goal of Steve Ogrizovic, who yesterday set a club record of 488 appearances and proved that at 40 he is as agile as ever. He ably pushed a massive drive from David Hopkin over the bar and immediately did the same from David Wetherall's header following the corner.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had already rattled the Coventry crossbar with a header after clever construction work by the Portuguese Bruno Ribeiro whose subtle skills gradually got submerged in a very British midfield tangle that saw the referee collecting names and contained shuddering collisions, one of which ended the game for Coventry's Michael O'Neill.

Leeds profited most from the ragged competitiveness, as they should considering the depleted make-up of the Coventry side for whom injuries and suspensions had left half a dozen players unavailable, but there is a lack of weight and power about their attack that too often costs them possession. The result here was that Coventry's initial approach to the second half was like opening a new book.

Roland Nilsson suddenly started to break through on the right edge, leading to Dion Dublin sliding a shot wide when the goal was more or less an open target, and the busy little substitute Andrew Ducros madeprogress against defenders who largely dwarfed him.

With Dublin generally ineffective at the head of their attack, Coventry needed to reinforce their hopes by releasing Gary McAllister from midfield, but Leeds usually spotted his attempts to get forward before he reached dangerous areas. In any case, Leeds were also in constant search of breakaways which Rod Wallace's pace always made threatening, so McAllister was torn in his responsibilities.

The division of labour overall being equal, the outcome became more and more predictable. Indeed, both sides suffer from too many worthy labourers who rarely inspire but infrequently look in long-term danger - perhaps Graham was serious after all.

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