Blackburn Rovers 4 Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton suffer travel sickness as Tugay inspires Rovers

At least it was all over quickly. Blackburn were 2-0 ahead within 18 minutes through Brett Emerton and Paul Dickov. Although Charlton pulled a goal back through Bryan Hughes after 36 minutes, their effort had a forlorn appearance before Morten Gamst Pedersen put them out of their agony just before the hour. Craig Bellamy's fourth in stoppage time merely twisted the knife.

It was a thumping defeat and badly timed, too. Sven Goran Eriksson was at Ewood Park, presumably to check on Danny Murphy and Darren Bent, but instead of them pressing their international claims, the England manager saw Tugay Kerimoglu give a near-flawless show in the home side's midfield.

With the Turkish maestro pulling the strings, Blackburn not only outhustled Charlton but outplayed them too. Bent was anonymous and Murphy erratic, while the home side were packed with players operating close to the limit of their effectiveness.

"We were excellent from start to finish," Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, purred. Curbishley, his Charlton equivalent, said: "There weren't too many plus points today. We were left wanting defensively."

They were, and quickly. Blackburn, who have now won their past five home games, were ahead within two minutes when Emerton gave a masterclass in making room for a shot. The Australian received the ball on the edge of the area, darted in and out, feinted inside, and then, with Jonathan Spector left deciding whether he was in a reef knot or a clove hitch, thumped the ball into the top corner.

Emerton then threatened with another spectacular strike, only for Chris Perry to head it clear, but that respite proved only temporary for Charlton, who were 2-0 down after 18 minutes.

Darren Ambrose made a hash of clearing his lines and Tugay passed to Lucas Neill, whose cross from the right deflected off a visiting head to further confuse the defence. They looked it too, because Dickov, all 5ft 6in of him, had the freedom of the six-yard box to head past the hapless Stephan Andersen.

So little had been seen of Charlton's attack that it was a shock when they got a goal of their own on 36 minutes after Ambrose flicked on Bent's pass from the right for Hughes to slide in at the far post. From the opposite side of the ground the ball must have appeared to have hit the side-netting, because no Premiership goal has had a quieter reception until the truth dawned and a cheer broke out 10 seconds late.

The home side had a penalty appeal turned down when Hermann Hreidarsson clearly handled, yet Blackburn had to wait only until the 59th minute to restore their two-goal lead. Emerton's flick sent Steven Reid clear to cross to Pedersen, who shot first time past Andersen.

Brad Friedel saved well to deny Hreidarsson's header, but any hopes of a Charlton revival had long since disappeared when Shefki Kuqi flicked on Pedersen's free-kick and Bellamy struck at the far post.

"The main thing is I don't go overboard," Curbishley said, refusing to consider wholesale changes. "It was a bad day, but a club like Charlton can't expect to win every Premiership game."

Of Bent and Murphy, he said: "I don't think Sven will go on one match." Both will hope so.

Comments