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Pat Murphy reports for the BBC
"Villa were clearly superior as Coventry lost their fourth game in a row"
 real 28k

Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 17:18 GMT
Ehiogu's head rattles Coventry
Ehiogu made it count just before half-time
Aston Villa 1-0 Coventry

A header from Ugo Ehiogu just before half-time was enough to give Aston Villa all three points against Coventry in a battling Midlands derby.

Villa favourite Paul Merson came up with the goods again when he supplied the central defender with a great cross into the Coventry box.

Ehiogu made no mistake as he beat Sky Blues defender Colin Hendry to the ball, heading past goalkeeper Magnus Hedman.

Passionate opening

The match began in a typical derby fashion with both teams attacking both the ball - and occasionally each other - although referee Uriah Rennie was willing to let some challenges go unpunished.

But there was plenty of good football played and it did not take long for tenacious Villa wing-back Alan Wright to brake down the left channel and deliver a fantastic ball into the Coventry area, only for Ehiogu to mis-control his shot.

Villa front men Merson and Benito Carbone alongside Julian Joachim were giving Gordon Strachan's men a torrid time.

Despite the threat that Villa posed, their only clear-cut opportunity came from 25 yards out, when Dutchman George Boateng struck a stinging shot, which Hedman did well to tip over.

Coventry came close to going into the lead against the run of play when striker Robbie Keane and then Belgium international Cedric Roussel should have scored from inside the area.

But the pendulum swung back again in Villa's favour.

Slick passing

In the dying seconds of the half, Ehiogu made amends for his earlier miss by powering home a Paul Merson free-kick from six yards out.

Coventry looked a changed outfit at the start of the second period, knowing that an early goal would turn the game.

Midfield wizard Mustapha Hadji came close to doing just that but his 25-yard free-kick flew just over keeper Peter Enckelman's crossbar.

But Coventry's midfield of Gary McCallister, Yousef Chippo and Hadji were outgunned and outplayed by the slick passing and movement of Merson, Boateng and Ian Taylor.

More than once Coventry were gulity of giving away possession, and with 75 minutes gone, defender Magnus Gustafsson did his best to hand John Gregory's men a second goal.

The centre-back tamely laid the ball back to keeper Hedman - not realising Joachim was lurking beside him.

But fortunately for Gustafsson, Hedman was alert to the danger and turned away the resulting effort from the Villa striker.

With the score at 1-0, Strachan's men were still in the match, but Villa stuck to their game-plan and secured the win - much to the dismay of the away fans.


Aston Villa: Enckelman, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Delaney, Taylor, Boateng, Merson, Wright, Joachim, Carbone.
Subs: Watson, Hendrie, Walker, Stone, Cutler. Coventry: Hedman, Gustafsson, Shaw, Hendry, Froggatt, Eustace, Chippo, McAllister, Hadji, Keane, Roussel.
Subs: Burrows, Whelan, Quinn, Pead, Hyldgaard.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield)
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