Sunday, March 05, 2006

Point Proved at Anfield

There won't be many teams in the Premiership this season that will claim four points from their 2 games against the European Champions, but Charlton have done just that, and I was extremely impressed by the calibre of our defending yesterday.
Because Liverpool dominated possession and had a large number of attempts on goal, neutrals will claim that they deserved to win the game, but I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Skilled defending is as much a part of football as skilled attacking, and our point was fully deserved for what was an outstanding defensive performance against a side who boast an impressive home record so far this term.

Spector (who I have often criticised on this page) had the best game I have seen him play for us, Hreidarsson was consistently in the right place at the right time, Perry dealt well with Crouch, and Young was his usual dependant self. Bodies were thrown in the path of incoming strikes at goal, and such commitment from the back four was refreshing to see, especially considering the way in which we have surrendered without even a whimper in so many other away trips this season.
When Liverpool did manage to find their way through our defence, they found Man of the Match Thomas Myhre in sparkling form. Three times in the first half he made excellent saves; twice from Djibril Cisse, and once when he flung himself to his left to divert a mis-hit Hreidarsson clearance wide of the post.

Perhaps the reason the defence stood out so much today was because the midfield didn't stand out at all. I don't know if I suffer from a selective blindness, but I never notice Hughes and Holland when they play. Once again today I felt that the game just passed them by, Gerrard broke through the middle numerous times and neither of them were anywhere to be seen. Kishishev was wasted out on the wing, and Ambrose was also guilty of not affording enough protection to Spector at left back.
Darren Bent suffered a similar fate to that which he suffered on the same pitch for England earlier this week. He was not involved in the game at all, starved of service, and totally isolated up front on his own. Both Bothroyd and Euell came off of the bench midway through the second half and acquitted themselves reasonably well though. There was one occasion where Bothroyd lost the ball, and then slunk away towards the halfway line when he should really have been trying to win the ball back, but other than that he did ok.

As the game progressed the Anfield crowd started to get frustrated with their side, and the murmurs of discontent from the terraces must have served to further strengthen our resolve. The post match stats show that Liverpool had 21 attempts on goal to our 3, but in truth I never really felt in too much danger. Indeed, we could have even nicked it at the end through either Jason Euell, who lacked composure in front of goal, and Spector who blazed over when in a decent shooting position.
It would have perhaps been harsh on Liverpool if they had lost the game, but there is clearly an issue with their strikers which they need to address. Fowler is not feared by Premiership defences anymore, Crouch hasn't scored for Liverpool in 2006, Cisse must surely be on his way out of Anfield, and Morientes just hasn't lived up to his billing.

We haven't scored ourselves in three games either, but to be honest I'm not too concerned about that. Our primary objective recently has been to halt the run of away defeats, and we have done that with two 0-0 draws, both obtained from grounds where I really didn't think we were capable of getting them.
I'm confident that both goals, and more attractive football will come once we get the likes of Thomas, Rommedahl, and even Marcus Bent back to full fitness. The latter is obviously struggling, he was pulled off today for the second game running nursing a hamstring injury.

So, Middlesbrough at home are next up for Charlton in an FA Cup dress rehearsal at the Valley next Sunday. It's long been a cliché that League results are much more important than a Cup run, but given our current middle of the road league position, I wonder how many Addicks would swap a home reverse next weekend in exchange for a victory in the Quarter Final.

I certainly would.


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