It was no contest at The Valley when Chelsea's lavishly funded side crushed the Addicks 4-0 on Saturday. Charlton had conceded an avoidable goal after four minutes, but had then fought back. With Chelsea's back line looking far from secure, there were still hopes of an equaliser when Chel$ki went in 1-0 ahead at the break. However, according to a later radio interview with John Terry, they were given a telling off at half time for allowing Charlton back into the game and they went 2-0 ahead shortly after the break. By the time Gudjohnsen had put them 4-0 ahead on 59 minutes, it was looking like a possible 6-0 defeat, but the Addicks rallied enough to contain them for the last half hour, although they were not able to produce a consolation goal. Before the game I had predicted a 0-2 result, so the outcome was worse than I had expected.
When I opened my E mail on Saturday morning, I had one from a friend currently working in Mexico City who said that she was going to Acapulco for the weekend. I couldn't help drawing the contrast with my likely day. A long and difficult journey to and from a grey SE7; defeat by Chelsea; and constant abuse of Curbishley and the team from the Bloke Behind Me, delivered in a shower of spittle. All my forebodings came true.
As I missed the Boro match, I only saw the programme yesterday, to read Peter Varney's headmasterly rebuke of Big Brian Cole. Is his replacement auditioning to advertise a 'before and after' sinusitis cure?
In the wake of the defeat, it is difficult to recall that we had a chance in the first minute. John Terry managed to give the ball away and JJ played it into Thomas in front of goal, but the youngster did not react quickly enough and Cech was able to deal with the ball.
On four minutes Gudjohnsen advanced into the centre circle, leaving our star defensive midfielder Kishishev stranded (would Keith Jones have been so easily outwitted?) Duff was running down the East Stand side and Gudjohnsen gave the ball to him. Konchesky, filling the left back role in place of the Herminator, was no match for the Irishman's pace. Kiely moved to his near post, giving Duff the opportunity to skim the ball in at the far post.
Charlton won a corner shortly afterwards, but it was taken short and wasted. Konchesky won the Addicks a corner, but Bartlett's effort went over. Chelsea won a corner that led to some pinball in front of the Covered End goal. Charlton were giving the ball away too easily, but El Karkouri delivered an impressive defensive block. The ball was played in to Deano who gave it a weak shot which sent it out for a Chelsea throw in.
Not all of the decisions made by the East Stand linesman were to the liking of charm merchant Duff who felt that Chelsea were not being given the number of corners their status deserved. Referee Clattenburg smiled benevolently as more than once Duff gave the lino his views about his parentage.
An excellent Luke Young cross won Charlton a corner. Chelsea won a corner at the other end and the unmarked Carvalho was given a free header, but he managed to put it just inches over the bar. A dubious free kick awarded against JJ gave Chelsea another corner.
Kishishev turned provider for JJ and his cross had to be pushed away by Cech. Charlton's best chance in the half came on 37 minutes. After Thomas had won a free kick, El Karkouri won Charlton a corner. Bartlett headed the ball into the goalmouth and Carvalho somehow managed to head it against his own post.
Robben drew a two fisted save from Deano. Terry committed a fierce foul on Thomas, but the referee consulted his list of England players and confined the punishment to a yellow. The feeling at half time was that Charlton had fought their way back into the game, even the Bloke Behind Me confessing that the Addicks had not been as humiliated as he had expected.
Half time: Addicks 0, Chel$ki 1
Chelsea came out in the second half determined to show that they were prospective champions. Robben won Chelsea an early corner and there was a scramble in the Addicks goalmouth involving a clever Chelsea back flick that won the visitors a second corner. Terry intercepted Duff's kick unchallenged by the Charlton defenders and put a head in the back of the net.
Chelsea continued in rampant mood and Deano had to make a good save from a shot from distance by Lampard. Within three minutes of the first goal of the half, the match was put beyond doubt. Another corner kick from Duff was headed across the front of goal by Carvalho. Kishishev made an attempt at clearance of the kind more usually seen in parks football. Deano is not at his best at close range and Terry was able to use his foot to put the ball in the back of the net and make it 0-3.
Charlton now completely lost their shape. The midfield, which had not been a source of strength all game, seemed to have disappeared in a secret cavern left over from the days when The Valley was a quarry. On 59 minutes Chelsea completed a flowing move which showed why they are championship contenders. Robben played a ball to Lampard who passed it to Gudjohnsen. With the Charlton defence seemingly standing by in admiration, the Herminator's compatriot advanced on a stranded Kiely to make it 0-4. A few minutes later Gudjohnsen was replaced by Drogba.
The Bloke Behind Me had been screaming for Curbishley to make changes, but when he made a triple substitution on 63 minutes it was denounced as a panic measure. Hreidarsson came on for Thomas, whose inexperience had shown at times. The lacklustre Murphy was replaced by Euell and the hapless Kishishev was replaced by Rommedahl. The measures did have a hint of desperation about them, but at least they stopped the rot.
El Karkhouri put in a shot from distance that just went over and drew warm applause from the dejected Addickted. Rommedahl put in a good ball to Euell, but although his shot was on target, the keeper went down to save it. As the match drew to a close, the ball went into the East Stand and the crowd refused to return it, the referee blowing the final whistle. Someone said that was the best point of the match.
Where do we go from here?
On the way back on the train, I was pressed by Chalfont St.Peter Addick, Dick the Statto, to give my views on what we should do now. I'm not the manager and one of the most irritating aspects of football management must be the fans thinking they know more than you do. How would a surgeon react if he was told 'You shouldn't try that procedure, your tactics are all wrong', 'Why did you choose this team of nurses?' and 'Why did you make the incision there?' Still, like all fans, I have my opinions, but they are just that.
Charlton now have a series of matches against teams they should be able to take points from: Pal****, the Baggies and Fulham. The first encounter has, of course, a particular significance. Some fans complain that the players lack commitment, but I think the problem is more a lack of skill relative to teams like Chelsea. As always, there are those who are not satisfied with a mid-table position in the Premmiership and would like Curbs to go. Names that have been mentioned include Gordon Strachan and Harry Redknap. It is not clear why Strachan would want to come to Charlton, while Redknapp's ducking and diving on the transfer market is hardly the Charlton style. My position is quite clear. Before I left on Saturday I called my wine merchant to send Curbs his usual Christmas gift of champagne. The wine merchant commented, 'He's doing well, isn't he?' The fact is that in terms of attendance and wage bill, Charlton are higher in the Premiership than they should be, but fan expectations are starting to outrun what is possible.
One favoured solution among the fans is to use more players coming through from the Academy. It must be frustrating for them when they don't get a chance, but we are not in the Championship. Some fans would argue 'they couldn't do any worse'. But they could, through lack of experience. The failure of Thomas to take advantage of an opportunity in the first minute shows that experience still counts.
A broader issue is how attractive the Premiership is when some matches are so unbalanced. Would the domestic competition be more interesting if the biggest clubs went into a European super league? These and other related issues are discussed on our political economy of football web site (see link below). Listen out for our advert on Charlton Live
on Sunday evening.
It was the turn of Homer the Cherry Hound
from Harwell, Oxon, on the Association of Canine Match Analysts duty rota, but the usually lucky labrador was unable to produce the goods for Charlton. He did, however, award the Silver Bone
to Talal El Karkouri
who is starting to build up quite a collection. The Moroccan was stalwart in defence and impressive in attack and is looking like the best of the summer signings. When a side is shipping so many goals, questions must be asked about Deano.
In fairness, he was probably only at fault for one of the goals. He is a good shot stopper, but he stays rooted to his line too much. He also fails sometimes to give a call to the defence, leading to a row with the Herminator
after the volcanic defender felt that he had not been given a clear instruction by the keeper and played the ball into trouble. If Stephan Andersen
is as promising as he appears to be, he won't stay at Charlton if he is kept on the bench. And then we will have no clear successor for Deano. We clearly missed the experience of Chris Perry, possibly out for as long as a month with a groin strain, at the back. Fortune
was evident for his lack of an effective contribution to the match. Luke Young
was one of the better Charlton players, helping to set up some of the few attacking moves. Press reports suggest that Paul Konchesky
is miffed because he does not get a chance to develop his skills at left back. I think that Konchesky has lot to offer, but on the basis of this performance left back is not his best position. Before the match, Mourinho had lavished praise on Kishishev.
Perhaps this was some sort of sophisticated mind game because this was a woeful performance by the Bulgarian. Once again Murphy
left questions in the minds of a number of supporters about why we had bought him, although perhaps he is used to playing with a better team. Holland
was running about all over the place, but made little positive impact. Thomas
did his best and is a clear favourite with the supporters, but he is shown up by teams of Chelsea's calibre. JJ
is now engaged in contract renewal negotiations, but I remain unconvinced about his qualities, particularly against the top sides. Bartlett
did his best, but he was often left completely isolated up front. The omission of Hreidarsson
from the line up was a suprise given that he was one of our most consistent and committed players. Apparently, he had a back injury but it didn't show very much when he came on. If he had been in his usual position, would the first goal have been conceded so easily? Euell
did his best, but one feels that his best is no longer good enough, that he is not the player he was in previous seasons. But the Bloke Beside Me is a great fan and perhaps Euell has suffered from not being given more starts. Rommedahl
clearly saw this as his chance to impress and his pace is impressive, but it is a question of what he does with it. At one point he took a long run with the ball from the East to the West Stand, but inevitably he was eventually dispossessed.
Juneau the Soccer Cat
has given the Hiss of the Match to Durham's M Clattenburg. To judge from the standard of his refereeing, he must have been promoted straight from the North East Counties League. As one wag suggested, he should be called Battenburg because he was soft and crumbly. Goodness knows what he would have done if it had all gone off.
The Addickted did their best to keep in good heart, but it's not surprising that so many left before the end. When Chelsea started up a chant of 'One Scott Parker' the Covered End was quick with a response of 'What a waste of money.' It was pleasing that those that were left applauded the team at the end, recognising that they had done their best in very difficult circumstances. It also means we will be spared another rebuke by Peter Varney in the programme. 6/10.