Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life

Big Dave Lockwood sometimes used to play the Python crucifixion song when Charlton had suffered a particularly bad home defeat. No such courtesy was extended at the Emirates Stadium as the Addicks, playing with ten men for most of the match after Osei Sankofa was sent off, went down 4-0 to Arsenal, two of the Gooners' goals coming from penalties.

The Addickted, however, managed to keep their spirits up as the match drew to a close with rousing chants of 'Super Alan Pardew' who is finding that the expectations level is a little more realistic than at West Ham. Perhaps the funniest chant, however, was when someone called 'Give Me a C' and went through all the letters spelling Charlton before shouting at the end 'Super Kevin Lisbie'.

It was always going to be difficult against an Arsenal side that included a returning Henry, while the Addicks without the injured Darren Bent played a 4-5-1 formation, but Charlton managed to contain them for the opening phase, thanks largely to the efforts of Scott Carson in goal. They did manage to win a couple of corners. However, with van Persie advancing on the ball, but in an offside position according to Alan Pardew, Sankofa hauled him back although the ball was already heading for the crossbar. Old Mother Riley somewhat harshly sent him off and the resultant penalty was slotted home by Henry.

The Charlton defence had already displayed a worrying tendency to allow the opposition acres of space and Fortune was brought on in the hope that he could shore up the defence, replacing Hughes who had already made a goalline clearance. Dennis Rommedahl did set up Marcus Bent, but his effort was well wide.

Arsenal won a free kick in a promising position but Carson made a great save at the expense of a corner. From this Rommedahl made a break but, as is so often the case, it petered out. Charlton were awarded a free kick but El Karkouri sent it straight to Lehmann in the Arsenal goal.

Just when it looked as if Charlton might survive to half time with a 1-0 deficit, Arsenal advanced on goal with Diawara nowhere to be seen. Carson came out and Hoyt was able to put an angled shot into the far corner of the net to make it 2-0.

Half time: Gooners 2, Addicks 0

Darren Ambrose had a shot which was saved on the ground. However, Arsenal continued to press with Rosicky putting in a shot that was just wide. Fortune provided good defensive cover by clearing at the expense of a throw in when Charlton were exposed to danger. Darren Ambrose, who had looked a little uncomfortable on the wing, was replaced by former Gooner Jerome Thomas.

Arsenal were awarded another penalty for what did look like a foul in the box and this time Van Persie stepped up to make it 3-0. The Arsenal fans, however, still did not rouse themselves very much and one wondered if some of them were plastic models. 'You still don't sing 3-0', taunted the Addickted. So quiet was the ground at times that one thought was in a branch of the Islington borough library with the Addickted making hushing noises from time to time. The Gooners did manage a chant of 'Pardew, Pardew, what's the score?' The Emirates Stadium is a great structure, but it does not generate atmosphere in the way that Highbury did. And why are the seat numbers concealed near the ground?

Faye was taken off and replaced by Kishishev, but Arsenal continued to dominate the game. Then Van Persie sealed the game with what was probably the best goal of the evening, lofting the ball over Carson. Gooners were saying to each other afterwards that Charlton were the worst team they had seen and definite relegation candidates, but everything conspired against the Addicks.

Match analysis

Is the Silver Bone tarnished if it is awarded after a 4-0 defeat? This was the question that confronted experiended match analyst Hooch the Pooch but he decided to award the coveted trophy to skipper Matt Holland for his energy, enthusiasm and quite a bit of skill. Despite conceding four goals, Carson prevented a complete rout by making some excellent saves.
Diawara often seemed to be out of position. El Karkouri did not have one of his better nights with his free kicks often over hit. The inexperience of Sankofa showed in the incident that led to his dismissal and it is good to hear that Luke Young is back in training.
Traore did not seem to provide much protection on the wing against Arsenal where they often threatened. The returning Faye had a dismal performance with a tendency to give the ball to opposition players, although he did make a good clearance from one Arsenal corner. Early in the game Rommedahl made a good run and then passed to an Arsenal player.
That says it all really. Ambrose was not played in a position where he is comfortable. Hughes had little time to make an impression, but it was not his sort of game. Marcus Bent ranged somewhat ineffectively on his own up front, his few efforts being unimpressive. He also ran back very slowly when attacks broke down. Fortune did reasonably well, making some good interventions, but his problem is consistency.
Thomas tried to sparkle on the wing, but made little impression.
Kishishev could have been brought on earlier, but was limited to a cameo role.

Hiss of the Match Fussy and officious referee Old Mother Riley received a hiss, not for the first time this season, although Juneau also objected to the stadium announcer identifying the Arsenal team by their first names ('Gil' in the case of Gilberto) as if Cashburton Grove was one big happy family.

Crowd rating The Addickted showed their passion under very difficult circumstances, particularly towards the end of the match. 6/10


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