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The Sunday Telegraph match report

Charlton can see the light clearly enough now and a second successive victory in five days, having gone 15 games without one, gives real impetus to the fight to retain their Premiership status. Thanks to Keith Jones's goal yesterday they are now only a point behind Everton and Coventry.

Charlton's winner came as Liverpool's defence showed far less vigilance than the security personnel who on Wednesday foiled a planned attack on the home club's floodlighting system which is alleged to have been part of a betting scam. The Merseysiders had two opportunities to clear John Robinson's high cross and their failure gave Jones the chance to send the Valley patrons home in good voice.

Liverpool fell way short of their own high standards and had the indignity of seeing defender Jamie Carragher sent off. It was from the free-kick that followed his elbow offence that the 70th-minute goal ensued.

The game had kicked off on time, and, what's more, the floodlights were on from the start and displaying an impressive wattage. John Barnes, who must still find it slightly strange to be opposing a Liverpool team after many years of medal collecting at Anfield, was named among the replacements following his free transfer from Newcastle.

Liverpool's trio of England players had recovered from the disappointment of Wembley to be named in Gerard Houllier's team and Steve Staunton, forced to miss the Republic of Ireland friendly international with Paraguay, was fit enough to take his place in a three-man defence, a tactic replicated by Charlton.

With both teams thus employing three in the midfield third it was no surprise that most of the first half waxed and waned in that area of the field. Liverpool possessed the superior touches though Charlton's spirit was considerable and their endeavour made it hard for Houllier's team to discover enough room in which to create a build up of real significance.

In the opening 10 minutes two possibilities for an attempt on goal emerged as the ball was played skilfully wide with defenders caught napping. Firstly Martin Pringle robbed Staunton before out-manoeuvring Dominic Matteo but to the rescue just in time came Carragher with an important block from the tall Swede.

That scare was countered by a surprising burst of acceleration from Jamie Redknapp, which took him clear of the midfield throng, but then Robbie Fowler ruined his work by delivering a poor cross.

It was a long time before either goalkeeper was involved and certainly the danger from the Fowler- Michael Owen combination, described by Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, beforehand as a pair of "assassins", existed only in reputation and not in deed.

Steve McManaman, an all too infrequent visitor to the score sheet, forced Simon Royce into belated activity in the 35th minute. Redknapp's free-kick failed to clear the first defender but McManaman picked up the loose ball and turned to produce a strong shot which the goalkeeper got to just in time to divert for a corner.

At last the contest was beginning to pick up and Pringle could have scored when Andy Hunt and then Robinson helped on a corner. But, distracted by the huge frame of David James, the Charlton striker directed his effort over the crossbar.

A chance fired over by Fowler and a clear opening which Hunt glanced too high were the precursors for a more lively second half. Three bookings in the same number of minutes were another sign of what was to come, referee Mike Reed brandishing a red card at Carragher in the 69th minute for using an elbow to ward off Pringle's challenge.

Goals : Jones (70 mins).
Half-Time : 0-0.
Booked: Ince (52 mins), Staunton (53), Bjornebye (63).
Sent off: Carragher (68 mins).
Attendance : 20,043.
Team (5-3-2): James, Heggem (Gerrard 81), Carragher, Staunton, Matteo, Bjornebye (Song 74), McManaman, Ince, Redknapp, Owen (Riedle 81), Fowler.
Substitutes (not used): Friedel, Thompson.
Referee : M. Reed (Birmingham).
League position: 5th (38 points after 25 matches).

Copyright - The Sunday Telegraph

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