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Babb's happy Highfield return

by John Curtis of "Press Association"

Former Coventry defender Phil Babb returned to Highfield Road to pile on the agony for Ron Atkinson with a second half winner for Liverpool. The Republic of Ireland international scored his first goal for the Reds since his £3.5 million move to Anfield two years ago. It extended Liverpool's unbeaten start to the season, but leaves Atkinson's side looking for their first win of the campaign and with only one point from four starts. 

Babb's winner climaxed an unhappy week for Atkinson and assistant manager Gordon Strachan with each facing an FA disrepute charge after the reserve team bust-up with referee Tony Green last week. Coventry showed plenty of fight and commitment with Brian Borrows competing well in midfield, but Liverpool always looked threatening and carried the greater composure. John Salako was booed every time he touched the ball by the Liverpool fans -- a reaction after his challenge on Steve Harkness had resulted in the Liverpool player suffering a broken leg in the last clash between the sides. 

He also felt the wrath of Jason McAteer in the eighth minute and the Republic of Ireland international was booked for a late challenge on Salako. Liverpool were soon into their stride and a mistake by Eoin Jess let in Stan Collymore whose Anfield future is said to be in doubt over his refusal to move nearer to Anfield. But the £8.5 million signing was denied by Coventry's veteran goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic who came out to save bravely at his feet. Coventry made little attacking impact in the opening half hour and Collymore was again denied by Ogrizovic who turned his low drive around the post. 

Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, who had both recovered from the back injuries which kept them out of England's trip to Moldova, combined and the former shot over from 15 yards when in space. But Coventry, who had conceded six goals in the previous three games, showed plenty of commitment and they started to create problems towards the interval. 

Jess was prominent in midfield and Coventry created their best chance of the opening 45 minutes when Dion Dublin flashed a fierce header a foot wide from a David Burrows centre. Ogrizovic was again called into action in the early stages of the second half and he did well to hold onto a fierce volley from Fowler. 

But City refused to be overhauled and a quickly taken free-kick let in Noel Whelan. However, he could only shoot tamely at David James. Gary McAllister, promoted to captain in place of Dublin, then carved out an opening after a one-two with Jess, but he mishit his shot straight at James. They paid the penalty in the 69th minute after Burrows had fouled McAteer. Michael Thomas played a short free-kick to McAteer and his swinging centre was side-footed in by Babb at the far post. 

McManaman had a golden chance to make it 2-0 after being put clear but after checking inside he screwed his shot wide. The same player then hit the underside of the bar while Collymore shot over from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy. Liverpool manager Roy Evans praised his side's fighting qualities as they ended a five year sequence without a win over Coventry at Highfield Road with a 1-0 success. 

Phil Babb's first goal for Liverpool since his £3.5 million move from Coventry two years ago was enough to settle the issue. Evans said: "It was nice to get that victory because we've gone away from Coventry with our tails between our legs in recent years. I was pleased with three points. It was not a sparkling display but a solid performance. We've asked the team to be more resilient when they go away against teams like Coventry and we were that tonight. It would have been far more comfortable for us to have sat in there with a two or three goal lead but I'll settle for the win. It's important at this stage of the season not just to be on fire but to get points in the bag. We have had a solid if unspectacular start with the display at Middlesbrough, when we were poor defensively, probably the biggest disappointment." 

Coventry manager Ron Atkinson was in an optimistic mood despite his side having now collected only one point from their opening four matches. He said: "The mood amongst the lads is all right. We are bottom of the league, let's not kid ourselves, but if we keep going like that and learn certain things then we are going to make ground on people. There is a fine line between winning and losing but that has always been the case. If you keep chipping away and get one result, you never know what might happen. We could have got something out of the game and acquitted ourselves well but having said that they had plenty of possession, as you expect with Liverpool teams, and hit the woodwork twice." 

Copyright - Press Association 

Press' Liverpool man of the match awards 

The Liverpool Echo: Dominic Matteo. 
90 Minutes: Mark Wright (8/10). 

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