Liverpool are still stuck in a rut. This third consecutive Premiership defeat - as bad a run as they have had in the league in more than four years - saw them slip back to fourth, overtaken by Chelsea and Manchester United. Not even replacing their suddenly suspect goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, could save them this time, partly because the rot does not stop with the unfortunate Pole.
Liverpool's entire defence was found wanting as a Charlton team, who could hardly put a foot right a few weeks ago, maintained their new-found golden touch with a thoroughly deserved fourth consecutive Premiership victory. A goal in each half, from Jason Euell and Paul Konchesky, provided further proof that the Addicks deserve their place in the upper echelons, when some had begun to doubt it.
Twenty-five minutes into this game it looked as if Chris Kirkland's run in the Liverpool goal would be a short one when he found himself on the receiving end of the old one-two: a boot in the face from the incoming Kevin Lisbie, followed by another across his head from his own teammate, Stephane Henchoz. The heir apparent to the England goal, never mind just Liverpool's, is clearly made of stern stuff and, having been knocked cold, was soon brought round, enabling Dudek to return to temporary obscurity on the bench.
Kirkland, given a run of three games, starting here, following Dudek's run of poor performances, had already shown himself ready for the challenge with some solid goalkeeping. After only six minutes the big man needed to be quick off the mark to thwart Shaun Bartlett, and similarly alert a quarter of an hour later when backpedalling furiously before pushing over a teasing free-kick by Paul Konchesky.
Indeed, before the half was over, Liverpool had need to be grateful to Kirkland for keeping them in the game. On the 10th anniversary of their return to The Valley, Charlton were in the mood for a celebration, though that mood had more to do with a run of three consecutive victories - and the prospect of a club-record fourth in the Premiership - than any feelings of nostalgia.
They looked more motivated than Liverpool, whom one would have thought would have been uplifted by Arsenal's defeat earlier in the day, even if it did mean Manchester United were making life more crowded at the top. Criticised for their lack of width, Liverpool had a little more success in that respect, though it had less to do with the reluctant, left-sided Emile Heskey as El-Hadji Diouf's ability to drift out wide and pose problems.
The Senegalese did well get round Radostin Kishishev in the 25th minute but his cross, though well met by Michael Owen, ended up straight at Dean Kiely.
Liverpool, perhaps smarting from recent criticism, were uncharacteristically adventurous and once it nearly cost them, when Lisbie was clearly onside and through on goal only to be flagged down. Dietmar Hamann might have done better when he rather too casually sidefooted one wide following a cross, this time from the right, by the hard-working Diouf.
However, another moment of fallibility in the Liverpool defence undid them. A cross from Gary Rowett after 35 minutes was won a little too easily in the air by Jason Euell. The ball struck Henchoz, but the Liverpool defender was slow to react and Euell followed up the faster to thump home from close range.
Liverpool's high-tempo start to the second half was matched by Charlton and the pace rarely slackened after that. It was typically English, blood and thunder stuff. Charlton were giving as good as they got and might have been given a penalty when Sami Hyypia appeared to handle a cross by Euell.
With an hour gone, Gerard Houllier decided it was time to be bold and he threw on a striker, Milan Baros. Owen may have had reason to doubt the wisdom of that decision when the Czech Republic player, standing offside, diverted a shot from the England striker which was bound for the net anyway.
Kirkland did well, blocking from Bartlett after 77 minutes. The ball, however, rebounded to Lisbie, who laid it off to Konchesky. With Kirkland stranded, the Charlton midfielder produced a wonderfully controlled lob, given the extraordinarily tense atmosphere, and Kirkland and Liverpool were finally done for.
Charlton: Kiely, Rowett, Rufus, Fish, Powell, Lisbie, Parker (Jensen 69), Kishishev (Young 80), Konchesky, Euell, Bartlett (Svensson 88).
Subs Not Used: Roberts, Fortune.
Booked: Euell, Konchesky, Svensson.
Goals: Euell 36, Konchesky 78.
Liverpool: Kirkland, Traore (Baros 61), Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Heskey (Riise 37), Owen, Diouf.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Smicer, Diao.
Booked: Traore, Henchoz, Hamann.
Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).
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