Saturday, March 18, 2006

Arsenal rampant as Charlton fall apart

Curbs responded to his critics by bringing both Thomas and Rommedahl, back from injury, into the Charlton side at Highbury thus giving it valuable additional width, reports Erith addick Paul May from Islington. Jason Euell also made a start (his first for over a year, but his 150th league appearance for the Addicks) while Spector swapped places with Chris Powell. Ambrose, Holland and Bothroyd were dropped, while Sorondo was available on the bench. A sunny day set the scene for Charlton's last ever game at Highbury presided over by Banbury's Dermot Gallagher equipped with a big yellow whistle.

Bent tried to spring the offside trap in the opening minute, but his shot went wide anyway. Perry was dispossessed, but Myhre was able to clutch the ball to his chest. Then the Gooners won a corner. Hughes headed away. Spector slipped and presented Arsenal with a chance, but he was able to recover enough to concede a corner which was unproductive for the Woolwich rejects.

Bent caught offside yet again, a risk with his style of play. Young won Charlton a free kick. Thomas won the ball in the penalty area, but was dispossessed. Arsenal forged forward and tore Charlton apart with their passing movement on the heavily watered surface with Pires putting the ball in the net to make it 1-0 after 13 minutes and virtually game over. Henry put in a shot that went over the bar. Hughes was bundled over by Spector and was left looking groggy.

With the relatively early goal, Charlton's defensive, counter attacking strategy based on the 4-5-1 was left in tatters. Balls up to the isolated Bent were easily dealt with by the Gooners defence. Arsenal threatened again with a header that went inches wide. Hughes was penalised for a hand ball about 25 yards out as the halfway point in the half was reached. Henry took the free kick which looped just over the bar.

Kishishev gave the ball away allowing Arsenal to mount an attack but fortunately it went out of play for a goal kick. Klebb broke through and the Gooners shouted for a free kick against Thomas. The Addicks were awarded a free kick for a foul against Young, but it ended in a free kick against the Herminator.

Arsenal broke after Hughes was dispossessed in a promising situation. Arsenal got a free kick level with the edge of the Charlton area, but it was gathered by Myhre. A marginal offside decision went against Romm. The flag was raised, but Gallagher overruled the linesman and Arsenal went 2-0 through Adebayor ahead just after the half hour mark, reflecting their domination of the game. Hreidarsson was to some extent at fault for the goal as he failed to control the ball.

Arsenal broke forward again, but Thomas put in a decent challenge. When Bent did get anywhere near the ball, he lacked support. Romm was flagged offside in a marginal decision. Charlton attempted an attack, but it was cleared and Arsenal counter attacked with their usual precision and pace. Charlton wers simply outplayed throughout the half.

Half time: Gooners 2, Addicks 0

Bryan Hughes was pulled off at half time for the second match in a row and was replaced by Shaun Bartlett. Luke Young got a yellow card for a foul on Flamini. Within minutes it was 3-0 to Arsenal, Hleb scoring to put the match beyond any doubt. Charlton had tried to go forward which left a gap in midfield which the Gooners were able to exploit.

Bartlett had a chance but failed to make use of it. Arsenal found space again with the Charlton defenders backing off, but somehow failed to use the opportunity to make it 4-0. Comfortably in control, Arsenal were able to use it as a training match to practice their passing. But then Pires put in a shot which was deflected and just went wide. With Chris Perry beaten Henry put in an effort that fortunately went about a yard wide.

Thomas worryingly pulled up with an injury and was replaced by Matt Holland. Arsenal made a double substitution with Bergkamp getting a warm reception from the Gooners. Bergkamp put in a shot that went over the angle of bar and post. Charlton won their first corner of the afternoon on 72 minutes as a result of good work by Kishishev. Before the kick was taken, Chris Powell came on to replace Luke Young so that he would be fresh for Thursday. Arsenal were able to clear the corner easily, but Powell defended on the halfway line.

Rommedahl put in an over powered attempt which went into the stand. Arsenal took off Fabregas and brought on the appropriately named Song. Although Arsenal were still in charge, the pace slowed. Under pressure Hreidarsson had to put the ball out for an Arsenal corner, but the Herminator cleared with a good header. Spector did enough to prevent Henry from getting to the ball. Myhre had to make a couple of saves, rebuking is defence for their negligence.

Perry had to concede a corner as Touré stormed forward from defence. Bent had a rare sight of the ball, but was forced back by Henry. Whenever Charlton got the ball, they couldn't hang on to it. Euell failed to make much of an impression on the game. Three minutes of time were added on as many of the Gooners left.

I was able to send the headline for this report to Wyn Grant after 15 minutes. I don't look forward to seeing the possession stats. A world class side overwhelmed a lower mid-table Premiership side. At least the scoreline was respectable. However, we shouldn't conclude that all is lost for the cup match against Boro who are not a world class side.


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