Saturday, September 09, 2006

Charlton make a match of it

Charlton lost 2-1 at the Bridge today against Chelsea, but they made a match of it against the champions. This was in spite of a series of injuries which led to forced substitutions and which changed the shape of the side with Luke Young being required to play in a left back role.

Charlton were much better in the second half than the first. Chelsea went all out for an early goal which they got after five minutes and it took the Addicks some time to find their way into the match. The arrival of Dennis Rommedahl as a substitute reinvigorated their play. They drew level through a Hasselbaink strike in the second half, but Chelsea were ahead again after eight minutes. A disallowed Addicks goal and a penalty save by Scott Carson all added to the drama. Chelsea fans were clearly uneasy about the possibility of a late equaliser, one bellowing, 'Get on the Woolwich Ferry and go home.'

The match was preceded by the traditional chorus of 'Blue is the colour, football is the game, rip off all the punters, what a bleeding shame.' The teams changed ends which always makes me uneasy.

Chelsea put Charlton under the cosh in the opening minutes of the match, looking for what they hoped would be a decisive goal. Wright-Phillips was a particular threat on the wing. Bryan Hughes was able to make a goalline clearance at the expense of a corner. It was again Hughes who cleared but Ambrose at the post was unable to deal with Drogba's shot and it was 1-0 after five minutes.

Charlton attacks tended to peter out, while Chelsea continued to put in shots on goal. Carson was called on for some saves, but other attempts went wide with Lamphard looking off form. Andy Reid had gone down injured and shortly afterwards had to be withdrawn in favour of Rommedahl.

It was the Dane who created Charlton's best chance of the half. He put in a good cross to Darren Bent who managed to connect with but his header went just wide of the post.

Most of the action was at the other end. A Bryan Hughes error put Carson in a one on one situation, but the Blues effort went just wide. Carson had to make a save at close range. Faye received a yellow card for a foul and then Ballack went into referee Wiley's book.

Blues were given a free kick in a potentially dangerous position but Hughes was able to clear with a header. Diawara went down, an injury that led to his withdrawal in the second half.

Half time: Blues 1, Addicks 0

Charlton looked much brighter at the start of the second half and Rommedahl put in a good cross which was saved. Traore had to be withdrawn in favour of Kishishev who moved into the right back slot with Young going out to the left. Apparently the radio commentary thought that his ankle injury was troubling him, but I didn't see much sign of that myself.

Hasselbaink, who had been fairly anonymous, seized his chance with a decisive strike in the 54th minute to make it 1-1. The former Blue refused to celebrate his goal and was applauded by the home crowd.

Blues won a free kick in a promising position but Lamphard was in lumphard mode and his shot went way over. El Karkouri provided a good clearance. Carvalho was booked. An error by Hughes created new danger for Charlton. A Blues corner saw Diawara go down.

Chelsea withdrew Wright-Phillips and Bridge and brought on Ashley Cole and Kalou. Mourinho commented in the programme that the club now had the two best left backs in the country which may well be true but provides evidence for the criticism that Chelsea are trying to appropriate all the best players. It is far from clear that Cole will be first choice at his new home.

With Diawara out of action, a corner kick was intercepted by Carvalho on 62 minutes to make it 2-1, although apparently it may have deflected off Faye.

Marcus Bent was brought on to replace Diawara and Charlton started to apply more pressure, something later acknowledged by Mourinho. However, a Charlton corner was wasted. The Addicks continued to play fluently, but another corner was cleared.

Then Chelsea were awarded a penalty for a push by El Karkouri. I was in line with and it did look like a penalty to me, albeit a generous one. However, it appears from matches elsewhere that more penalties are to be awarded and, given that we have often been denied them in the past, this may be no bad thing. Carson judged Lamphrad's shot well and made the save at the expense of a corner, which was followed by a second.

Carson was trying to pick out Marcus Bent with his goal kicks, but more than once they went out of play as the target man failed to connect. Charlton continued to apply pressure, with Rommedahl prominent, but the elusive equaliser failed to come. Marcus Bent's goal gave a moment of hope and it was difficult to see why it was disallowed with my view, but it was handball. However, it was not for a lack of effort or skill.

After the game we were delayed at Fulham Broadway owing to 'a customer on the line at Parsons Green.' A call went out for Inspector Sands to report to the control room, but the elusive Charlton blogger was nowhere to be seen.

Match analysis

Senior match analysts Hooch the Pooch previews the scores he has provided to The Observer. The canny canine had no hesitation in awarding the coveted Silver Bone, now accompanied by an Observer silver salver to Dennis Rommedahl (8). His tireless effects on the wing unsettled the Chelsea defence and he produced some excellent crosses, although after Kish came on as right back he was playing on the inside more. Scott Carson (7) once again showed his merit with a penalty save from Lamphard. El Karkouri (7) showed inventiveness and good positioning in his defensive role. Diawara (6) looks as if he is going to be a useful addition to the squad. Traore (6) performed reasonably well, but I would prefer an on form Chris Powell. Young (7) showed determination and skill and the versatility to switch effectively to the left. Hughes (5) was competent enough most of the time, but made a series of worrying errors, giving the ball away more than once, although he almost some key clearances in front of goal. Ambrose (6) was energetic and enthusiastic, but real skill was lacking, especially in front of goal. Faye (7) impressed my Spanish guests and he may well be the best of our recent additions. Hooch did not give Reid a score because of the limited time he played, but thought that he battled away effectively enough, although doubts remain about whether he is fully fit. Hasselbaink (6) scored a goal which is what one expects strikers to do, but he was invisible a lot of the time. Darren Bent (7) was a worry to the Chelsea defence, but particularly in the first half, he was often on his own out front, surrounded by four Chelsea defenders. Kishishev (6) was fully committed when he came on and made a good contribution, but with the odd shortcoming. It was difficult to see what value Marcus Bent (5) added.

Juneau the Soccer Cat declared that she is glad that she is not the cat in the Mourinho household after watching the manager's histronics throughout the game. If Chelsea had failed to win, he might well have gone home and kicked the cat.

Crowd rating A sommewhat depleted group of the Addickted, not surprising given the prices, but they were in good voice. 7/10.


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