Twice on Saturday the public announcer at The Valley broadcast the monolithic riff from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir". Had Alan Curbishley sneaked into the DJ booth? The former Charlton manager is a noted Led Zep enthusiast, while his brother Bill manages the group's former singer, Robert Plant. As the martial riff chugged out, it gave a subtle reminder that Curbishley's West Ham are now battling Charlton for Premiership survival. A song named after the Indian subcontinent's mountainous north-west also hinted at the Himalayan task facing Charlton.
As author of the Football Association manual Basic Team Coaching, the Charlton manager, Les Reed, must have despaired at the way such basics eluded his team. In the second minute, the normally reliable Luke Young failed to clear.
Liverpool crossed and a bumbling high challenge from Djimi Traoré on Jermaine Pennant brought the penalty which Xabi Alonso converted. When Traoré later adeptly cleared off the line it brought relief in more ways than one - until then it had sometimes seemed the former Liverpool player had forgotten he had been transferred in August. But, with Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Pennant combining mercurially, Liverpool should have completed a mercy killing long before their second goal in the 82th minute.
"The number of games we have left, we're not going to be pushing for Europe," said Reed. With his droll manner, he is at least maintaining grace under pressure. However, even he admitted the home dressing room was quiet after the match: "The players are down. I think some heads did [drop], but some players were working to the end. They have got to show that kind of leadership to drag the other players through."
After last week's 5-1 defeat by Spurs, the penalty immediately dissipated Charlton's confidence. Frequently, their players seemed genuinely discomfited by the ball. Liverpool created numerous chances without, seemingly, exerting themselves. Kuyt hit the post and had several good chances to score.
The result left the visitors third and Rafael Benitez casting a sly eye toward Chelsea and Manchester United. "When I was at Valencia," the Liverpool manager said, "we were seven points behind Real Madrid and I told my players we will win the League. Afterwards they said to me, 'We were laughing' [at Benitez's optimism]. But we did win the League. We can now finish in the top four, the top three, or you never know... This team is better than last season."
The Led Zeppelin songbook contains many compositions that reflect Charlton's current plight - "Dazed and Confused" being one, Charlton must hope for another selection - "Celebration Day". But, right now, that looks some way off.
Goals: Alonso pen (3) 0-1; Bellamy (82) 0-2; Gerrard (88) 0-3.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Myhre; Young (Diawara, 68), El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traoré; Rommedahl, Holland, Faye (Hughes, 58), Reid (Ambrose, h-t); Hasselbaink, D Bent. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), M Bent.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise; Pennant (Crouch, 84), Alonso, Gerrard, Gonzalez (Garcia, 67); Bellamy, Kuyt (Aurelio, 77). Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Agger.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Charlton Traoré; Liverpool Garcia.
Man of the match: Bellamy.
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