Baiano 3, Eranio pen 30, Wanchope 39
Coventry City 1
Having suffered the chastening experience of watching a three- goal lead overturned before their eyes in their last Premiership match, Derby put matters right with a performance of great imagination within a mist-shrouded Pride Park. But they had to withstand a spirited comeback by a Coventry side who began and ended the contest well but fell apart dramatically in the middle.
Derby's manager Jim Smith had been concerned about his side's confidence against opponents beaten only once in nine Premiership matches before yesterday. In the event, he had not long to wait for reassurance.
The match was in only its third minute when Coventry, still needing to settle, failed to deal adequately with Lee Carsley's cross from the left. Gary Breen's header went directly to the feet of Francesco Baiano, lurking at the edge of the penalty area, and the Italian's left-foot strike skimmed past Steve Ogrizovic to nestle in the bottom corner.
For the best part of the next half-hour, though, Coventry were dominant and ought to have hit back at least once, Dion Dublin wasted a free header and failed to worry Mart Poom when given a clear sight of goal. Coventry's poor scoring record is a millstone around their necks and will drag them inevitably towards danger if it is not cured.
Derby increased their lead after Baiano had been brought down inside the penalty area by the combined efforts of Breen and David Burrows. Their other Italian, Stefano Eranio, marked his first Premiership match since 6 October by scoring from the spot, despite a worthy attempt to save by Ogrizovic.
The effect was a draining of Coventry's confidence. They conceded another goal seven minutes before the break when Paulo Wanchope burst away from Burrows in pursuit of Baiano's finely judged pass and beat Ogrizovic with a deft chip, the Costa Rican raising his tally of goals for the season to 10.
So much on top were Smith's vibrant players that Wanchope had time to practise his party pieces, executing a back heel with which Faustino Asprilla would have been pleased to set up an opening for Baiano. It was a shame the Italian could not control his shot for it would have been a wonderful goal. Within moments, only a last-ditch tackle by Burrows prevented the Italian making amends after Sturridge had raced past Roland Nilsson on the left flank.
Throughout all this, Gordon Strachan stood only feet from the touchline, alternately bellowing at players and gazing towards the misty sky. After a week in which his assistant, Alex Miller, left him for Aberdeen, this was the last thing he needed.
At least there was the consolation of a goal when Darren Huckerby, supplied by another substitute, Willie Boland, beat Poom with a low, angled shot. He looked set to add a second - and bring back Smith's worry lines - when Eranio tripped him just outside the box, the Italian receiving one of nine yellow cards issued by David Elleray.Reuse content