Charlton Athletic 2 Manchester City 5: Cole's goals deepen depression at Valley

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The Independent Online

November passed without a win for Charlton and with many more performances like this there is every chance December could go exactly the same way for the south Londoners.

Undone by a combination of their own slack defending and Manchester City's slick forward interplay, including a man of the match performance from Andy Cole, Charlton fell to their sixth consecutive defeat. Still there is some good news on the horizon as they play the Premiership's bottom club, Sunderland, at the weekend.

The visitors had needed a result as well, with no wins in three going into this match, but they were good value for the points, as Cole and Darius Vassell picked their hosts apart with a combination of the former's passing and the latter's pace. Between them the past and present England internationals notched up three of their side's goals.

There were boos for Alan Curbishley and his Charlton side, for the second consecutive home game, following on from their Carling Cup exit last week. This is a run that has seen Charlton slip from second in the table and a Carling Cup win over Chelsea to 12th place, and one that if not arrested quickly could lead to them slipping into further trouble over Christmas.

"A catalogue of disasters," was how Curbishley coined it. "The defending was unbelievable. We were on the back foot from the start." That was proved after 25 minutes. From a hopeful header out by Sylvain Distin, Vassell trapped the ball and reached the edge of the area. From there he cut inside two defenders but lost control, inadvertently laying the ball into the path of Cole and he deftly chipped his shot inside the far post.

Two goals in a minute, unfortunately from Charlton's point of view, did not alter the game's balance. From having looked comfortable against the one-man strikeforce of Darren Bent, City did concede an equaliser. Luke Young, from the half-way line, lobbed his pass towards Bent who turned Richard Dunne with ease and thrashed his shot into the bottom corner.

Charlton were elated but their joy was short-lived: 54 seconds to be precise. Straight from the kick-off Trevor Sinclair stole a couple of yards on the left-back Jonathan Spector, Cole's pass was perfect and Sinclair drove his shot across Dean Kiely's body to restore their lead.

It was a lack of concentration that cost the Addicks their 2-0 lead against Blackburn in the Carling Cup last week and led to defeat, and a similar dereliction of duty crept in once more among Curbishley's men.

In the week that his brother Michael was found guilty of murder, Joey Barton had come close to scoring before he finally got the goal he deserved, albeit from a penalty after Herman Hreidarsson's pull on Vassell. Barton's initial effort was saved but he got to the rebound before Kiely.

Three minutes later Jay Bothroyd pulled a goal back when he was teed up by Murphy from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

That was not enough to haul Charlton back into the game, for Cole, after 79 minutes, then found Vassell in plenty of space to slip his shot past the exposed Kiely. Five minutes later Chris Perry's under-strength header to Kiely summed up the hosts' afternoon as Cole nipped in for the fifth.

Stuart Pearce, the City manager, praised Barton's reaction to events this week, saying: "It's been a tough week for him. It's been on his mind and I'm pleased he scored." He added: "We thoroughly deserved to win. All the players have done extremely well for today was a character game." That is something Charlton need to find, and fast.

Goals: Cole (25) 0-1; Bent (36) 1-1; Sinclair (37) 1-2; Barton pen (69) 1-3; Bothroyd (72) 2-3; Vassell (79) 2-4; Cole (84) 2-5.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, Hreidarsson, Perry, Spector; Johansson (Bothroyd, 54), Smertin, Holland (Thomas, ht), Murphy, Ambrose (Hughes, 81); Bent Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Powell.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sommeil, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher; Sinclair (Croft, 86), Reyna (Ireland, 86), Barton, Sun Jihai; Cole (Wright-Phillips, 86), Vassell. Substitutes not used: De Vlieger (gk), Sibierski.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Charlton Perry, Young; Manchester City Sun Jihai, Dunne, Reyna.

Man of the match: Cole.

Attendance: 26,500.

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