Jerzy Dudek made a miserable comeback for Liverpool in London last night when the goalkeeper whose heroics in the shootout against AC Milan gave the Merseysiders victory in the Champions League final was responsible for the penalty from which Charlton took the lead in the 42nd minute.
Dudek caught Darren Bent's trailing left foot with a knee as the Charlton striker reached Radostin Kishishev's pass and though it was not a fierce tackle, it was enough to send the striker crashing to the ground.
As he did in Istanbul, Dudek waved his arms and tried to put off Bent but the Charlton striker was not distracted as Andriy Shevchenko and company were in Turkey and put the ball to the goalkeeper's right as the Poland international went to the left. Luke Young's first goal since September 2004 in first-half stoppage time made it 2-0 and though Charlton have squandered such advantages with frustrating regularity, they held on for their fourth win in the last five home games.
The first good chance came in the 13th minute when the Charlton defence failed to cut out Djimi Traore's long pass from the left which reached Peter Crouch who was unmarked eight yards from goal. As the ball came over from the left Crouch chested it down and Charlton managed to clear.
Charlton were being caught offside too often by the visitors' well-drilled back line though Dudek, making his first start since last May's Champions League final because Jose Reina was suspended, almost gifted Charlton an opening goal. The ball was played back to the Poland goalkeeper who was reluctant to clear with his weaker left foot so attempted to beat Bent to enable him to use his right foot. He managed it but not without a few Liverpool hearts in mouths.
Liverpool had appeals for a penalty on the half-hour turned down when Crouch fell over as he challenged for a cross with Jonathan Spector but any contact was minimal and the Charlton full-back did not appear to push his opponent.
The visiting fans sang the name of substitute Robbie Fowler, who scored 120 League goals for Liverpool during his first spell with the European champions and given the way Crouch and, Fernando Morientes struggled to cause Thomas Myhre any real problems, it looked as if the former England international would be brought on in the second half.
Just before half-time Charlton had Hermann Hreidarsson to thank for a crucial interception as the defender cut out Djibril Cisse's cross to Morientes.
An average first half burst into life three minutes before the interval when Dudek caught Darren Bent with a foot as the pair went for Kishishev's pass.
The contact was minimal but it was enough for Bent to fall over.
Dudek was cautioned before being beaten by Bent's 15th goal of the season.
Jamie Carragher was subsequently shown the yellow card for continued protests and Liverpool's lack of poise cost them dearly in stoppage time. Carragher only half-cleared Alexei Smertin's ball in from the right and Luke Young made it 2-0 with a low angled drive.
While most home supporters would be confident with a two-goal lead the Valley faithful have seen the team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory too often to feel comfortable with such an advantage.
Bent came close to increasing Charlton's lead in the 61st minute - a minute after Fowler had replaced Crouch - but his stinging 15-yard half-volley from Young's clever pass rattled the crossbar.
In Charlton's next attack Darren Bent laid on the opening for namesake Marcus Bent but his effort, too, struck the woodwork, his eight-yard shot hitting an upright.
Charlton defended deeper and deeper in the final 15 minutes, almost inviting Liverpool at them but apart from an instinctive block-save by Thomas Myhre from Fernando Morientes, the home goalkeeper was not really troubled.
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