Coventry City sprung into goalscoring form with an emphatic win over Sheffield United at the CBS Arena that really could have ended with more goals for the home side than the four that they mustered.
After a well-contested opening period, Sheffield United took the lead through Sander Berge, aided by the Sky Blues switching off completely after initially defending a long throw into their penalty area. With concerns rising that Coventry City’s season was set to fizzle out, Viktor Gyokeres quickly levelled the scores after chasing down a long ball that Sheffield United’s defence failed to defend.
The game continued to swing back and forth throughout the remainder of the first-half, but the rarest of sights, a Callum O’Hare goal, early in the second-half signalled that it was to be a Sky Blue day. From that point onwards, it was a case of Coventry City looking likely to score with just about every attack, with a second O’Hare goal underpinning the obvious direction the game was heading.
The Sky Blues’ final goal of the afternoon came via Matt Godden, but there were further chances to an emphatic win into an outrageous one, with Callum O’Hare, in particular, spurning some great openings to complete his hat-trick. Regardless, it was quite a remarkable performance and result for Coventry City, demonstrating that this team can trouble the very best the Championship has to offer.
It All Comes Together
This was a showing and result that has been coming for a long time for Coventry City. The Sky Blues have controlled and dominated a countless number of games over the course of the campaign but have consistently ended up scoring fewer goals than they have deserved and thus taken fewer points than they deserved. This game wasn’t a freak occurrence, it reflects that Coventry City are a good team with the potential to be a force to be reckoned with.
After a first-half in which both teams were just about as threatening as the other, it was the second-half where things clicked for the Sky Blues. Just about every time they entered the Sheffield United half, they looked like scoring. This wasn’t a case of Coventry City’s luck in front of goal levelling out, this was a scoreline achieved through the sheer weight of chances created.
Even in emphatic victory, the Sky Blues found a way to be profligate in front of goal. It raises that concern that this result may not represent a turning point, but the effect of scoring goals and winning shouldn’t be underestimated. This was a demonstration that Coventry City are a team that can impose their will on one of the best teams in the Championship. If the players can’t utilise this as proof positive that they make up an exceptional team, nothing will.
The other important aspect of this result is that it leaves the team just three points off the play-offs. As much as this kind of result had been in the offing, it could easily have come once the pressure was off Coventry City to achieve anything this season. This is a genuinely meaningful victory that bolsters confidence at an excellent time. Anything remains possible with this team.
The Master of Ceremonies
For the past few games, Gustavo Hamer’s quality in this Coventry City side has stood out, with the players around him nowhere near the same standard. This was an occasion where the players around Hamer played well, which only served to make the midfielder’s brilliance that bit more brilliant.
Aided by an excellent display from Jamie Allen alongside him, Gustavo Hamer had the freedom to play positive, forward-thinking football. Allen covered so much ground, consistently shutting down Sheffield United’s midfield, allowing the team to quickly get on the front foot. Hamer clearly fed off his midfield colleague’s energy to help raise his own game to another level.
It was an especially impressive midfield display from Coventry City given the reputation of Sheffield United’s operators in the centre of the park. Ollie Norwood and Conor Hourihane have won promotion from this level, while Sander Berge was signed by the Blades for £20 million, yet it was Gustavo Hamer who bent the game to his will.
Whether it was in how easily he muscled players off the ball, to how quickly he could assess whether to pass the ball or carry it forward, Gustavo Hamer looked like a player operating at a much higher level than his opponents were capable of. Whenever the ball was near Hamer, it was his. Whenever Hamer was on the ball, Coventry City players knew it was time to attack.
Sometimes an individual player can stand out because the players around him aren’t playing well, this performance from Gustavo Hamer was a demonstration that he can harness his teammates abilities when they look to match his standard. The midfielder looks to have raised his game to another level recently, which could be the kind of thing that raises the immediate potential of this Coventry City side that bit further.
When Gyokeres Is Good…
Another key element to Coventry City’s win was just how much trouble Viktor Gyokeres caused the Sheffield United defence whenever the ball was played his way. This was a Sky Blues performance about playing from back to front with purpose and Gyokeres’ harrying presence in attack was a key reason why that approach proved to be so successful.
This was an especially demonstrative performance from Gyokeres in light of Matt Godden’s return to fitness. The Swedish striker’s poorest run of form this season had coincided with Godden’s previous stint in the starting line-up, raising questions as to whether the duo can be effective together. This was a showing that suggested it is possible for both strikers to be effective as a partnership.
As much as Matt Godden played his part in running the channels and challenging with the opposing centre-backs, it was Gyokeres’ unique combination of physicality, mobility and skill that made Coventry City turned balls played in their direction into such a consistent threat. Not a single one of Sheffield United’s back three was spared from Gyokeres’ devastating ability to both batter and surge past defenders. From the youngster, Kyron Gordon, to the much more experienced, John Egan, Viktor Gyokeres made a Sheffield United defence that has been excellent recently into one that looked like disorganised mess.
While that may be an indication that this was a win that was just as much about an opponent having a bad day, as it was Coventry City having a good one, Gyokeres, in particular, is someone who should be credited with making that bad day for Sheffield United happen. He is someone who can be all but impossible to contain when he is at his best, as soon as Sheffield United realised that Gyokeres could not be stopped, they looked completely spooked.