Football: The day Hedman lost his head

Coventry City 3 McAllister pen 2, Aloisi 17, Chippo 54 Leeds United 4 Bowyer 7, Huckerby 25, Harte pen 33, Bridges 60 Half-time: 2-3 Attendance: 21,532
Click to follow
LEEDS, TWICE behind, pulled off their first win at Highfield Road since 1993 in a match spiced by so much incident it was rarely wise to look away. Darren Huckerby opened his Leeds account against his former club and the Moroccan, Youssef Chippo, struck a stunning first for Coventry but the outcome was influenced more by two mistakes by Magnus Hedman, the home side's goalkeeper.

Hedman, likely to be a key figure when Sweden's meeting with Poland determines England's Euro 2000 fate, was at fault when Huckerby rolled home the second of Leeds's first-half equalisers and then conceded a penalty. However, Leeds, driven by David Batty and David Hopkin in midfield, always looked determined to leave with three points.

Despite his side's success, David O'Leary, the Leeds manager, voiced more complaints about the disruption to club training schedules imposed by the international calendar, calling for the Premiership programme to be put back 24 hours after international fixtures.

"It is only right that there should be a break before the games but I really think players need longer afterwards to recover," he said. "I've had 13 players who did not get back to me until Thursday. There were a lot of weary legs today and a lot of mistakes made.''

A frenetic pattern was set within the opening minute when some nimble footwork by Coventry's attackers created immediate panic in the Leeds defence and led to Hopkin, pressed by Gary McAllister, conceding a penalty for hand-ball from which the former Scotland skipper scored, placing the ball to Nigel Martyn's right.

By the eighth minute, Leeds had twice had the ball in Coventry's net. Michael Bridges was denied by an offside flag but then Lee Bowyer, beating Hedman at the second attempt, equalised following a throw-in near the left-hand corner flag.

Coventry regained the lead 10 minutes later. Mustapha Hadji, always a threat along the right flank, won a free-kick when Harry Kewell nudged him over. McAllister crossed and John Aloisi headed home.

But then came Hedman's nightmare passage, during which two critical mistakes allowed O'Leary's team to go to half-time leading 3-2.

He was slow to react when Batty's through-pass set up Huckerby's goal and then gave away a penalty, losing a ball played in by Bridges and compounding the error by bringing down Batty as he tried to retrieve it. Ian Harte drilled the ball to his left from the spot.

Inevitably, the high tempo could not last, although the excitement continued. Highfield Road has been waiting for one Moroccan or another to produce something spectacular and it came nine minutes after the break from Chippo, who seized the chance made by Hadji's pass to crash an angled volley beyond Martyn's reach.

Again Leeds were allowed to regain the upper hand. With Coventry's defenders standing off, Kewell closed in from the left and rattled an upright. Poor Hedman, blameless this time but fated, it seemed. Now the ball bounced off his back into the path of Bridges, who scored from close range.

Comments