Football: Carbone's class crushes Charlton

Sheffield Wednesday 3 Charlton Athletic 0
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The Independent Online
AFTER 90 MINUTES displaying their shortcomings on the field, Charlton's players spent another 90 detained in the dressing-room as their manager, Alan Curbishley, searched for the reasons behind a loss of form that is beginning to threaten their Premiership survival.

"It wasn't a crisis meeting or a tea-cup throwing situation," Curbishley explained. "It is just that I think one or two things have crept up on us in the last four or five games. It was a chance to assess what has gone wrong."

That seems straightforward enough. Charlton, whose early results surprised many, have failed to win any of their last seven matches, have lost four in a row, and now sit only just above the relegation places.

"Certain things are happening to us that we can't allow to happen any more," Curbishley continued.

"If you look at the stats from today's game, we should have had the edge, but we have been beaten again. We are giving away very poor goals and are finding it hard to score ourselves."

The second problem is easily explained by the lack of a genuine Premiership striker, a description which fits neither Clive Mendonca, relegated to the bench on this occasion, nor Andy Hunt. Whether John Aloisi, who may join Charlton from Portsmouth, will prove better remains to be seen.

Wednesday could do with a more productive centre-forward, too, but still had enough firepower on Saturday, flattered as they were by the scoreline. Andy Booth's first-half goal, which Charlton's failure to prevent upset Curbishley most, was his first at Hillsborough for 13 months.

Thereafter, some brilliant play by Benito Carbone ultimately secured Wednesday the points after a run which has seen them lose only once in eight Premiership matches, lifting them clear of danger for the moment.

Carbone scored a sublime goal from 25 yards to create the cushion of a two-goal lead, then supplied the cross from which Petter Rudi volleyed Wednesday's third. For the second time in a week, following Monday's defeat of Nottingham Forest, the former Internazionale man had given a virtuoso performance. "His class was the difference," the manager, Danny Wilson, said.

Cynics may note that Wednesday's improvement has coincided with the absence of Paolo Di Canio, still serving his punishment for causing Paul Alcock to feel the Hillsborough turf on his backside, allowing Wilson to avoid the thorny question of whether his team is big enough for two Italian tricksters.

For all their individual brilliance, Carbone and Di Canio together often appear to be conducting their own private contest, to see who can pull off the cleverer stunt, while the rest of the team can go whistle.

Wilson does not need to address that yet: when Di Canio is free to return, against Leicester City on Boxing Day, Carbone will be suspended, having picked up his fifth yellow card.

Goals: Booth (13) 1-0; Carbone (64) 2-0; Rudi (77) 3-0

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Srnicek; Atherton, Thome, Walker, Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson (Briscoe, 59), Jonk, Sonner, Rudi (Stefanovic, 79); Carbone, Booth. Substitutes not used: Clarke, Humphreys, Magilton.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Ilic; Mills, Rufus, Youds, Powell; Newton (Barness, 72), Kinsella, Redfearn (K Jones, 72), Robinson; Jones, Hunt (Mendonca, 79). Substitutes not used: Brown, Royce.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Carbone, Sonner, Stefanovic.

Man of the match: Carbone.

Attendance: 26,010.