Coventry 2 Arsenal 2
Dion Dublin salvaged a point for the Sky Blues in what could be his last game
for Coventry in an extraordinary match at Highfield Road.
The home side had dominated the first half but only had Noel Whelan's 21st
minute effort to show for it.
And it looked like they would pay dearly for several missed chances when
Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka put Arsenal in front within 12 minutes of
the second half.
But Coventry were handed a lifeline on 64 minutes when Patrick Vieira conceded
a penalty for handball and the Frenchman was then dismissed after protesting his
innocence too vehemently for referee Steve Lodge's liking.
Dublin remained the calmest player on the pitch while Vieira was finally
escorted by Arsenal officials and he beat David Seaman from the spot to level
Coventry were also reduced to ten men when Paul Williams received his marching
orders for the second time in the season for a professional foul on Dennis
Bergkamp just outside the area.
There was little indication of what was to follow from a first half which
Coventry dominated throughout as Arsenal appeared to be suffering from the
effects of their long battle with Port Vale in the FA Cup in midweek.
The Gunners felt they had good claims for a penalty after 14 minutes when Paul
Williams and Ray Parlour clashed just inside the area but the referee was well
placed and waved away the visitors protests.
That was Arsenal's only real chance and after that they were in danger of
being overwhelmed by a Coventry side that looked dangerous on every attack.
The Sky Blues opened the scoring on 21 minutes with a beautifully constructed
goal from Noel Whelan.
Dublin's intelligent first time flick found Trond Soltvedt free in the penalty
area and he did well to hold off the challenge of Steve Bould before laying the
ball back into the path of Whelan who sidefooted it past David Seaman.
That threatened to open the floodgates and Arsenal were grateful for an
outstanding save from Seaman and some wasteful finishing from Darren Huckerby
for keeping them in the game.
After 32 minutes Huckerby beat Bould on the edge of the area with a delightful
turn but saw his thunderous drive tipped over by Seaman.
Huckerby could count himself unlucky on that occasion but he was then guilty
of missing three chances that could have sealed the points by half time.
As the Arsenal defence looked in vain for the offside flag he was through on
goal on three occasions but twice he shot weakly at the advancing keeper and
also took too much time on another occasion to allow Matthew Upson to get back
Arsenal then made Huckerby pay for his wasted chances as they levelled the
scores within five minutes of the restart.
Paul Williams attempted backheader to Magnus Hedman was well short of pace and
Bergkamp nipped in to lob the advancing keeper.
It was an equality the visitors did not deserve and they robbed salt in
Coventry's wounds with a second seven minutes later.
Lee Dixon's left-foot shot was going wide until Anelka poked out his rightfoot.
Hedman managed to smother the ball but as it got caught under the keeper's
body Anelka stabbed it into the back of the net.
The real excitement was yet to follow however as both sides were reduced to
ten men in an increasingly bad tempered second half.
Vieira had already been booked when he conceded a penalty for handball on 64
That was probably enough to get him sent off but he made absolutely certain by
protesting his innocence too strongly and referee Lodge reached for the red
Vieira then kicked the ball away in a show of petulance and had to be escorted
from the pitch by Arsenal officials.
Dublin remained calm enough to score from the spot once the game eventually
restarted to make the scores level.
And it was then Coventry's turn to be reduced to ten men when Williams
received his marching orders for the second time this season.
He brought down Bergkamp on the edge of the area and the Dutchman closed in on
goal was shown the red card for a professional foul.
He had a brief stay of execution however as the referee consulted his linesman
before confirming the decision.
Bergkamp blasted the resulting free kick over the bar but there was still time
for Arsenal to come close to an undeserved winner.
Bergkamp's low cross was met by Anelka but the teenager could not get his left
foot shot on target for what would have been an undeserved victory.
Coventry: Hedman, Burrows, Nilsson, Williams, Breen, Whelan,
Telfer, Soltvedt, Boateng, Dublin, Huckerby.
Subs Not Used: Ogrizovic, Shaw, Moldovan, Salako, Strachan.
Sent Off: Williams (79).
Booked: Whelan, Telfer.
Goals: Whelan 21, Dublin 66 pen.
Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Bould,
Anelka (Boa Morte 82), Bergkamp, Keown (Grimandi 42), Parlour,
Subs Not Used: Manninger, Wreh, Hughes.
Sent Off: Vieira (65).
Booked: Vieira, Grimandi, Parlour.
Goals: Bergkamp 50, Anelka 57.
Ref: S J Lodge (Barnsley).