Moroccan infusion counters Everton's home brew

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The Independent Online

THE OVERSEAS tide has flowed in opposite directions for Everton and Coventry this year. Everton, forced by financial constraints to shed the bulk of their imports, can be pleased with what a largely home-grown side, fleshed out with the descendants of football's first foreign mercenaries, the Scots, has achieved this season. But Coventry have continued to recruit far and wide and, in their two Moroccans, Moustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo, they had the men who could have won this match.

THE OVERSEAS tide has flowed in opposite directions for Everton and Coventry this year. Everton, forced by financial constraints to shed the bulk of their imports, can be pleased with what a largely home-grown side, fleshed out with the descendants of football's first foreign mercenaries, the Scots, has achieved this season. But Coventry have continued to recruit far and wide and, in their two Moroccans, Moustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo, they had the men who could have won this match.

Hadji, pressed into service as an emergency striker after treating his bruised instep with raw steak all week, faded in the second half and was eventually upstaged by his captain, Gary McAllister, as the game's most influential figure. Some of his touches - including setting up the equaliser, before the pressures of an unaccustomed role wore him down - were sublime.

Chippo's confidence on the ball is barely inferior and, if he could have finished more clinically in the second half, this would have been an unlikely Coventry win, made in North Africa.

Gordon Strachan is already a gushing admirer of what his two charges have to offer. "Any young kid who wants to be a footballer, I'd take them along to see these two in training," he said. "A lot of people said 'Moroccans? They'll be pretty soft'. But the honesty they play with is refreshing."

Like everyone else, the Coventry manager has seen his share of "dodgy foreigners" - some of them at Highfield Road. "But born players like these we can do with," he said.

Strachan was also well served by his Swedish goalkeeper, Magnus Hedman, and, until he went off injured, the Bosnian defender, Muhamed Konjic.

Everton, by contrast, had just one overseas in-comer among the 16 who got changed, the recently arrived Portuguese midfielder, Abel Xavier. Despite this, Walter Smith, the manager, has little reason yet to be dissatisfied with his mix. Even a performance falling well below the standards they have now set for themselves saw Everton create enough chances, for their early scorer, Francis Jeffers, Kevin Campbell, and the substitute, Danny Cadamarteri, to have won this with something to spare.

If Everton were less than convincing, that had much to do with the hangover from the intoxicating intensity of their stormy Monday at Anfield. However much you try, it can be hard to transplant the passion from one occasion to another.

Smith's side still managed to sneak up into fifth place, on a day when most teams above them played their European card. That might still prove to be a little more than they can sustain, but at least Everton are now going into matches expecting to score.

Goals: Jeffers (2) 1-0; McAllister (11) 1-1.

Everton (4-4-2): Gerrard; Dunne (Gemmill, 83), Weir, Gough, Ball; Xavier, Hutchison, Collins, Barmby (Cadamarteri h-t); Jeffers, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Ward, Johnson, Simonsen (gk).

Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Edworthy, Shaw, Konjic (Williams, 57), Hall; Telfer, McAllister, Palmer, Chippo; Hadji, Keane. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Strachan, Eustace, Nuzzo (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Bookings: Everton: Dunne, Edworthy, Hall.

Man of the match: McAllister.Attendance: 34,839.

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