Anelka dazzles Charlton
Manchester City 4 - Charlton Athletic 0
Sunday 29 August 2004
George Graham used to say he never looked at a League table until 10 games into a season. The then Arsenal manager was probably having us on but only the likes of Rupert Lowe and other overexcited followers of the game will have read too much into the first few results this season.
Those three games had left City without a win and Charlton on their best ever Premiership start, with six points. Only time will tell how much this result will reflect on the rest of the campaign, but while neither side were that good, Kevin Keegan's City, Nicolas Anelka in particular, were a class apart.
Another of Graham's favourite sayings was "let's have a look at where we are in May, it's a marathon, not a sprint". That said, Paula Radcliffe would probably have walked off midway through the second half had she been a member of the listless Charlton defence, but the only sign of her yesterday was a mention in the programme, where City legend Mike Summerbee had a pop at anyone who criticised her after the Olympics.
He also defended Keegan, who has probably done his best bit of business this summer by pricing Anelka out of the transfer market. Both Monaco and Lyon have tried to lure him back to France, but have been put off by Keegan's £10 million-plus evaluation. He looked value for money on this form, scoring twice and laying on another for Shaun Wright-Phillips. Trevor Sinclair was the other scorer.
"Nicolas showed why he is so important to us and why other clubs want him," Keegan said. "I don't think he will go now, but even if we were offered £20m on Monday I would advise we turn it down because he is irreplaceable.
"As it stands, we have a small squad but quality, and capable of giving these fans a season to remember."
Anelka gave them a goal to savour after 13 minutes when, after a Robbie Fowler dummy allowed the ball to run to him on the edge of the Charlton penalty area, he turned and scored with a low right-foot shot into Dean Kiely's goal.
Both sides missed chances after that, but more fell to City. Kiely and Luke Young combined to gift City a second goal in the 34th minute. Wright-Phillips crossed from the right and Young stumbled on the ball, forcing Kiely to try a clearance which Sinclair charged down and into the net.
"We looked a soft touch," admitted the Charlton manager Alan Curbishley, who was devastated having already conceded four goals in their other away game, at Bolton.
It needed a team with more quality to take advantage of City's lapses yesterday and that is exactly what Anelka displayed when he ran on to Wright-Phillips' pass and slipped the ball under Kiely for City's third on the hour.
Curbishley made a triple substitution but his nearly men were no match for City by now, and Wright-Phillips scored the fourth and best goal from 20 yards out with 12 minutes to go. The Charlton fans who had sung "you're just a bunch of rejects" should have been wondering which team they were talking about.
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