Forlorn Coventry

Middlesbrough 4 Ravanelli 3, 73, Juninho 28, 80 Coventry City 0 Attendance: 29,811
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Coventry were supposed to be one of the surprise teams of the season, having accumulated pounds 17m of largely British talent. The surprise yesterday was that they were so poor. They sank without trace beneath wave after wave of attacks from free- running Middlesbrough, who have lavished the same amount on foreigners.

Gary McAllister was given a masterclass in midfield by Emerson, and Juninho must have given him a headache buzzing around the centre of the pitch. The Brazilian scored two and made a third, and the Italian Fabrizio Ravanelli also took a brace.

Coventry started poorly. In just the second minute they surprised Nick Barmby by giving him so much space in the six-yard box that he shot wide of the side netting. It got worse. Within seconds, Paul Williams got into such a mess he conceded a needless corner. Juninho swung it over, Steve Ogrizovic flapped like a sail in the wind, and Ravanelli headed home. It was perhaps a shame the Italian scored so early. Blowing extravagant kisses to every member of the Middlesbrough faithful must have tired him out for he did very little until the 73rd minute. Then, in a seemingly harmless position on the edge of the area, he curled a left-foot shot around Ogrizovic to score his second.

Juninho and Emerson, though, never stopped. In the 28th minute, Robbie Mustoe - the third and often overlooked midfielder - was given enough time in the area to chest the ball down, turn around and lay it off perfectly for Juninho to push into the net. And as Coventry finished the game in the way they had begun it, Juninho exchanged passes with Ravanelli. Inside an empty area, he dummied one way, shimmied the other and slid the ball past Ogrizovic.

Yet Middlesbrough's exhilarating pursuit of goals hides their frailty at the back. John Salako, the only Coventry player fit to be in this exalted company, gave Neil Cox a torrid time down the left. Salako also had the visitors' best chance. In the 43rd minute, Eion Jess's cross somehow bounced between three central defenders and Alan Miller made the save of the game from the winger's shot.

After the game, the Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, praised Juninho's performance, his team's attacking play and their first clean sheet of the season. Ron Atkinson, his opposite number, refused to speak - which was no surprise.

Comments