Sunday, February 04, 2007

Down, but not Out

Charlton Athletic 0 Chelsea 1

However hard Charlton battled and fought, basically Chelsea were just too good on the day. It was a fair result, but one which gives all those connected with the club heart, because we tried to win, and could, with luck, have embarassed the Champions.

Unchanged, Alan Pardew's team started slowly. Chelsea knocked the ball around with ease, and Charlton just kept giving the ball back to them when they did get posession. Tactically, Pards had an interesting set up; he started with Rommedahl playing up alongside (and in front) of Marcus Bent, in an effort to utilise his pace. This wasn't a surprise, but using Jerome Thomas in a marking role on Makelele was! Thomas settled into it quite well, but it gave the team a funny shape, and Wayne Bridge in particular ran riot down the wing unopposed.

The goal, 18 minutes in, was a poor one to concede. Faye won the ball, then lost it through bad control to Shevchenko. Faye then won it back but was then outmuscled by the Ukrainian who knocked it to Lampard. Lamps took a touch to set it up, a brief look, then stroked it into the corner of the net from 25 yards - typical Lampard. I did think Carson may have done better, but he made up for any possible error later in the game.

Pardew then changed the formation, and Charlton settled back into a more orthodox 4-5-1 though Rommedahl was still pushed well forward. Half time came, and Charlton survived, but without too much danger to Peter Cech's goal.

The second half was much better from a home team persective, with Hasselbaink replacing Rommedahl, and a switch to a more usual 4-4-2 line up. The crowd came to life as they could see the effort being put in by most of the team, none more so than Marcus Bent who in both halves chased the ball across the whole width of the pitch as it was played across by Chelsea defenders, and then back again!

Kalou hit the post for Chelsea, and then Charlton had two chances to equalise, both falling to Amady Faye. Although he scored a couple of weeks ago at Portsmouth, the number 4 isn't prolific by any means. Striding on to a great turn and pass by Bent, he controlled and hit the ball with power from the edge of the area, only to see Cech make a very good tip over the bar. A few minutes later, Faye ran onto a long pass and seemed to shin the ball at goal, and straight at Cech, and safety.

Obviously the training ground efforts by Pardew and his team are sinking in to the players, with Faye making forward runs we haven't seen before, new formations being tried out, and nobody giving up. Sadly, corner kicks seemed to be wasted time after time. Rommedahl had obviously been told to chip the ball up to the near post, but this just didn't work, and a second half corner knocked to the edge of the penalty area was only ever going to a blue shirt. It is these areas that Pardew and Parkinson need to keep working on, as goal opportunities don't come along that often in the Premiership.

The last twenty minutes or so saw a number of substitutions - Lisbie for Holland, Diawara for Thomas (with Hrediersson moving up to a forward role) for Charlton, and Wright-Phillips and the icon that is John Terry coming on for Chelsea.

Wright-Phillips had two chances to make the game save, but first Carson made a great save, then SWP hit a shot wide when well placed.

A word about the ref - Mark Halsey. Not a favourite by any means, Halsey did keep the game flowing whenever he could and refused to give free kicks every time a player went to ground. At least he was consistent. He should have noted some of the bullying that went on from the Chelsea dug out though, as pressure was consistently put on the linesman by Clarke and "the chosen one", and Terry was also quite verbal when warming up.

A great effort by Charlton, this was a game that we can walk away from with our heads held high. Charlton did not lie down, even after conceding quite early, tried out different options, and gave it a real go. If we can continue like this over the next dozen games, and with Young, Reid, and Darren Bent to come back into the line up, along with Bougherra and Song, then Charlton have a real opportuniity to dig themselves out of the hole that Dowie put them in early in the season.

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