Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 20,043
A FURIOUS Gerard Houllier last night accused referee Mike Reed of being responsible for his Liverpool team's defeat at Charlton after Reed had sent off Jamie Carragher for what was officially termed "violent conduct" and Charlton snatched the winning goal in the aftermath of the free-kick.
Carragher had appeared to elbow Charlton's Swedish striker Martin Pringle in the face as they competed for a long clearance out of the home penalty area in the 68th minute. Pringle collapsed and Reed's flourish of the red card was immediate.
"I am terribly angry," the Liverpool manager said. "This is not fair. We have been treated unfairly, not by Charlton but by the referee. He helped them to win today. This is the second time Reed has done this to us. We lost 1-0 at Leicester and Jason McAteer, who was sent off there, didn't know why.
"You work hard all week and then get a referee whose decision swings the match. What is the point? When my team are refereed by this man they say they are playing against 12 men. Normally I never complain about referees but today I know some managers who would be even more angry than I am.
"I would like to know why he sent Carragher off without a yellow card. I asked Jamie and he said he'd done nothing. The referee wouldn't talk to me so what can I reproach my player with? This referee has the best record in terms of bookings and he probably wanted to keep that record up."
Before the match all the talk had been of the attempt to sabotage the floodlights, allegedly in connection with an attempted coup on the Far East betting market. In the event the lights, switched on before the start as a precaution, worked perfectly, shining down on a turgid encounter which only came to dramatic life when Mr Reed began to flourish his cards early in the second half.
The Birmingham official tops the referees' chart of Premiership hawks. Before yesterday he had sent off four players and booked another 74 in 14 matches, an average of 5.29 per game. That average was effortlessly maintained as he swung into action, cautioning Danny Mills, Paul Ince and Steve Staunton in the space of three minutes.
Reed's report cited Mills for "persistent infringement" and the Liverpool pair for "unsporting behaviour". Then Stig Inge Bjornebye was added to his count for "delaying the restart of play" shortly before the roof fell in on Liverpool with Carragher's dismissal.
The first rash of bookings injected life and needle into the exchanges as Charlton surged forward in search of a second win in six days to climb away from relegation danger. Pringle's close control and willingness to run at the Liverpool defence made him a constant threat and he was ably abetted by the ability of John Robinson on the right to get past his markers and cross accurately.
The arrival as substitute after 65 minutes of Charlton's new signing, John Barnes, was a lucky omen for his latest club and a bad one for his former team, whose supporters greeted him warmly. Within three minutes Carragher had received his marching orders and once Liverpool's furious players had been calmed down, Mark Kinsella took the free-kick, pumping the ball wide to Robinson. His low cross caused mayhem in the goal area, with Andy Hunt almost prodding it in and Staunton coming close to an own goal before the ball ran to the incoming Keith Jones, who joyfully smashed it high into the net. It was Charlton's first goal against Liverpool at The Valley in the league for 39 years.
As Liverpool's defence sagged, David James made a marvellous blocking save when Barnes sent Pringle through with a glorious pass and also did well to stop Hunt and Kinsella adding to the lead.
So ineffective were Liverpool that Michael Owen was taken off 10 minutes from time. "Awful" was the terse description of a former Anfield great, Ian St John, about their performance, no doubt matching Houllier's view of the match official.Reuse content