Thursday, February 09, 2006

Champions of Europe!

Charlton Athletic 2 Liverpool 0

Life is never dull when you're a Charlton fan! Abysmal on Sunday, our lads were simply magnificent team-wise last night. I believe that this is the first time that Charlton have ever played the reigning European Champions (When Forest and 'Pool won it years ago we were in Divs 2 or 3; when Man Yoo won we were winning the Championship...), and it was fantastic to skip out of the ground at the end of the match with a huge grin on my face.

As I joined the throng of Scousers leaving the South stand exit in Valley Grove (many had left early for beer or food accumulation for the coach journey home) I just couldn't remove the smirk...Champions of Europe. Huh!

Curbs made three changes to the starting eleven - our went Powell, Fortune and Ambrose, and in came Thomas (Hurrah!), Spector and Perry.

So what happened? Well, Charlton started, as they have many recent games, slowly. Liverpool had much possession and sprayed pases around all over the place. Crouch, Morientes, Kewell, and Cisse all looked lively and dangerous. Cisse kept taking on Spector for pace and our Yank did fairly well, blocking about half the crosses attempted. One flick by Morientes went straight to Myrhe, and other half-chances were blocked by last ditch tackles.

Perry was magnificent; he repeatedly tried to head the ball from under Crouch's armpit, and was quite successful with this action. I don't think the lanky one had seen this tactic before! Hermann had a run in with Crouch too, as the ex-Spur backed into him and fell over in the six yard box, claiming a penalty. Our Icelander made his feelings known vocally!

In midfield, Smertin, Hughes, Kishishev and Thomas found very little space and time, and balls to the two Bents up front were few and very inaccurate.

Mostly balls were just lumped upfield as best could be and Marcus or Darren made chase, without much success.

Then the game changed. Kishishev found himself with a little time and lobbed the ball over the Liverpool back four for Darren Bent to chase. Dudek came out but Dazza got to the ball first. As their paths crossed, Bent went down. Penalty! I was a long way away but others closer say it was a dodgy pen...well, I'm with Curbs here. We haven't had a home Premiership penalty for over a year and a half and have had plenty of good shouts in that time. This was one minor step in evening things out. Well done Andre - I said he might come good!

Dazza cooly slotted it into the corner; the crowd was buzzing. Most decided that this was a good time to go to half time early - fools! Again, the ball went down the inside right channel and bobbled around between Bent and the defence; Luke Young had stormed into the area and just kept going till he caught up with the ball...LASH! Through Dudek's legs it might have gone but it sat nestling in the bottom corner now...2-0! Mayhem! The half time whistle went and, for the first game in what seems like months, there was no booing as the players walked off!

The second half was notable for just a few things: Dazza crashed a shot unluckily against the bar; Marcus hit the post (he should really have scored...) after a great run from an offside Dazza; Robbie Fowler came on to a great big cheer; and Thomas Myrhe made his first save in ages with a great stop from Moreintes shot.

Here's how I sum up each players night -

Myrhe: Excellent stop late on, and marshalled the penalty area well.
Young: Back near his best after a long time away. Was that red nose the result of someone knocking some sense into him and telling him to perform if he wants to go to Germany this summer?
Spector: Possibly his best game for Charlton, when up against a very good player in Cisse. Distribution not ideal, but overall the boy done good.
Hreidersson: After his spat with Crouch was rarely seen, but won plenty in the air and cleared his lines with aplomb whenever necessary. A rock!
Perry: Man-of-the-match. Hilarious watching him beat Crouch in the air time after time.
Kishishev: Played right side and did well in breaking up balls to Kewell, and runs from Sissoko.
Hughes: Played inside but found little time, so just lumped it over his shoulder all the time. Made good tackles but very uneffective overall.
Smertin: No time or space but harried and competed whenever he could. Struggled against the sheer bulk of Sissoko.
Thomas: Was an outlet all night and tried to find space, but consistently closed down by Sissoko which prevented much constructive play.
Bent (D): Ran all night and few opportunities, but made the best of all he got - a penalty, hit the bar, and created chance for Marcus.
Bent (M): Ditto, and should have scored. Did well defending corners and overall work-rate superb.

Subs - El Karkouri for Smertin, Ambrose for Thomas did well in last fifteen when the game need closing down.

And what of my one-to-watch, Mervyn Day? He stood on the sideline all night, and didn't even have the chance to catch the ball and throw it back to a player taking a throw in. Come on Merve - do something!

After last night, every Charlton fan should have a smile on their face - the message boards will be positive, the Curbs for England brigade will be out in force, Ben Hayes will claim it was he who changed the Addicks fortunes (only joking...), and the world will seem a better and brighter place.

Charlton can rightfully claim to be Champions of Europe right now, up until their next game anyway!

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