Press Association report

Liverpool's admittedly faint chances of claiming the Premiership runners-up spot surely died at Highfield Road.

The team that dumped them out of the FA Cup at Anfield back in January deprived the Merseysiders of the victory that would have kept them just about in touch with second placed Manchester United.

The gap is now nine points with Liverpool having just a game in hand, so they can now start thinking in terms of the UEFA Cup and third spot.

A brilliant Michael Owen goal, his 21st of the season, will have certainly impressed Glenn Hoddle, but Liverpool were just not equipped to withstand the barrage of pace and height, and Coventry deservedly grabbed a point through Dion Dublin's penalty - his 21st goal of the season.

And the Sky Blues can also forget about their equally faint hopes of a UEFA Cup spot and can concentrate on cementing their first top-half finish in nine season.

Coventry were probably the only people who believed they had a genuine chance of making the UEFA Cup spots, but they set about Liverpool with such relish you'd have thought the title was at stake.

Coupled with their ability to embarrass the so-called bigger clubs, Coventry had no intention of producing an end-of-season canter.

They already had that magnificent FA Cup win at Anfield under their belts, plus the impressive achievement of battering Manchester United into submission back in December.

Their pace and sheer desire gave Liverpool a dreadful afternoon. It didn't take a genius to predict that Liverpool's defence would have problems with Dion Dublin's height and Darren Huckerby's pace, and that's certainly how it turned out.

Liverpool were terrorised at times. And it was made worse by the inability of Phil Babb and Dominic Matteo to clear the ball properly when they had the chance.

The chasing and harassing of Willie Boland and Trond Soltvedt made sure that Paul Ince and Jamie Redknapp were not far behind when it came to panic and squandering of possession.

Liverpool's main outlet was those excellent, sweeping passes from Redknapp that find McManaman with unerring regularity. Without that, the Anfield side wouldn't have got out of their half.

One run and 20-yard shot from Redknapp and a header from Michael Owen after Stig Bjornebye's cross from the left, were all Liverpool could muster as Coventry dictated the play.

There were times when Liverpool's box resembled a pinball machine, and it was a miracle they survived at times. Dublin planted one fierce header inches wide from a David Burrows free kick, having got away down the right early on to crack a rising drive over the top.

Soltvedt, falling backwards, was unable to direct a header on target after Dublin's flick on had caused more chaos. The sheer pace of Coventry's play had Liverpool flapping and floundering.

But totally against the run of play Liverpool got themselves out of the trenches long enough to escape to the other end, where Danny Murphy cracked in a vicious 20-yarder that Steve Ogrizovic beat out.

The resulting corner was only cleared as far as Bjornebye and he lifted it back into the box for Owen to flick up and away from Gary Breen before belting it into the net after 33 minutes. An opportunist goal of real quality.

But frankly is was a miracle that Liverpool survived until half-time. They last only two minutes of the second period with their lead intact.

Babb failed to cut out a long ball down the left, and set off in hot pursuit of Huckerby, who got to the by-line and was tripped by the Irish international defender. Dublin blasted home the spot kick.

Liverpool complained - they claimed the ball had gone out for a throw before Huckerby embarked on his run.

Noel Whelan could have made it two a minute later when he lashed over after a cross had found him unmarked on the far post.

Owen almost punished indecision between Breen and Ogrizovic, and from the resulting corner, Ince rose high to force a fine save from the former Liverpool reserve 'keeper. And just to compound Babb's nightmare day, he failed to force home the rebound.

Liverpool had loud appeals for a penalty turned down after a Breen tackle from behind on Owen. TV replays showed that the Coventry defender had touched the ball cleanly before sending Owen tumbling - but he may have pushed the England striker first.

Liverpool lost Redknapp with a worrying knee injury after 74 minutes, but still had Coventry pegged back for the first time in the match, the home side by now relying on Huckerby's high-speed breaks.

McManaman, having shaken off an ankle injury to make the match, was by now the main danger with his runs from midfield, but it really would have been an injustice if Coventry had not got a point, at least.


Coventry: Ogrizovic, Shaw, Burrows, Breen, Nilsson, Whelan, Soltvedt, Boland (Williams 88), Hall, Huckerby, Dublin.

Subs Not Used: Hedman, Moldovan, Eustace, Shilton.

Booked: Hall.

Goals: Dublin 47 pen.

Liverpool: Friedel, Jones, Babb, Bjornebye, Matteo, McManaman, Leonhardsen, Redknapp (Riedle 74), Ince, Owen, Murphy.

Subs Not Used: James, Kvarme, Berger, Carragher.

Booked: Ince.

Goals: Owen 33.

Att: 22,721

Ref: N S Barry (Scunthorpe).

Copyright - Press Association

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