Charlton Athletic 0 Chelsea 1: Terry lifts champions but Pardew fights on

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The Independent Online

It was the day feng shui came to football. While Alan Pardew revealed his plan for transforming Charlton Athletic's training HQ into a dynamic base for the relegation run-in, Jose Mourinho recreated Chelsea's aura of authority by aligning a newly restored defensive pillar with the precious rock protecting his goal.

John Terry, during the final minutes of the champions' hard-fought victory, followed Petr Cech in returning from injury and the flow of energy generated by the England captain was almost tangible. His first act was a fearless, full-stretch diving header. No wonder Mourinho said that Chelsea needed him "as a player and as a person".

Terry's capacity to make those around him perform with greater intensity will be in demand on Wednesday as he continues his comeback in the friendly against Spain at Old Trafford. Mourinho trusts it will be a cameo role, however, allowing his talisman to be "completely ready" for Middlesbrough next weekend.

Chelsea plainly need his leadership, not to mention the fact that his availability would let Michael Essien move back into midfield and improve the balance of the side at a stroke. In his absence they often resembled a band of disparate individuals; like Tony Adams and Roy Keane before him, Terry is a force for cohesion.

Mourinho did not make any signings during the January transfer window, which made his claim that Chelsea tired at The Valley because he was unable to rotate his squad sound like thinly veiled criticism of Roman Abramovich. Yet having Cech and Terry back was, he purred, like having two £50m recruits. Their presence means a Manchester United title is far from a foregone conclusion.

At left-back, Wayne Bridge's all-round excellence was all the more impressive for the fact he had Dennis Rommedahl flying down his flank for 45 minutes. In contrast, Charlton had no width along the left, which provided the 21-year-old Parisian right-back, Lassana Diarra, with another chance to demonstrate that his attacking skills outstrip his defensive composure.

By the time Pardew adjusted his system, deploying Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in support of the isolated Marcus Bent, Chelsea had the goal their superiority merited.

Frank Lampard struck from long range after Amady Faye, who endured an astonishingly error-prone first half, lost possession to Andrei Shevchenko. Faye strove to redeem himself as Charlton belatedly carried the game towards the imperious Essien and company, twice having an opportunity to equalise in the final quarter. But a solitary goal in English football indicates that he is not a natural finisher; neither shot was sufficiently well placed to beat Cech.

Despite the defeat, Pardew was upbeat about his team's survival prospects, and justifiably so. They showed spirit and conviction in the second half and in Scott Carson they have a goalkeeper with a touch of Cech's invincibility.

More pertinently perhaps, the return to fitness of Darren Bent, an attacker blessed with the clinical touch lacked by the unfortunate Faye, could still prove as influential as Terry's re-emergence for Chelsea. The availability of the newcomers Madjid Bougherra and Alexandre Song will further enhance Charlton's options.

Luke Young and Andy Reid are not far from being able to rejoin the fray either, with Pardew looking to a training camp in Spain after next Saturday's game at Manchester United to hone his squad's sharpness and strength. On returning they face six-pointers against West Ham United, Watford and Wigan, all of which the former West Ham manager deemed "winnable", while Sheffield United must also visit London SE7.

As the Charlton players work in the Spanish sunshine, the builders will be giving their training complex at Eltham a makeover. "I just want to change the dynamics of the place," said Pardew, an unlikely Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. "When they come back, I need to make sure that they'll see we're going forward. I want the discipline of the building to be better, and to take that into games."

Disciplined walls and corridors certainly represent a novel design for avoiding relegation. Meanwhile, it may be premature to rule out the prospect of the opposite end of the table, as it were, being decorated in blue once more come May.

Goal: Lampard (18) 0-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Carson; Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Thatcher; Rommedahl (Hasselbaink, h-t), Faye, Holland (Lisbie, 78), Thomas (Diawara, 88), Hughes; M Bent. Substitutes not used: Randolph (gk), Ambrose.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Diarra, Essien, Carvalho, Bridge; Mikel (Wright-Phillips, 75), Lampard, Makelele (Terry, 88), Ballack; Drogba, Shevchenko (Kalou, 75). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Geremi.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Chelsea Diarra.

Man of the match: Bridge.

Attendance: 27,111.

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