Charlton Athletic 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3

Keane steals the thunder as Bent shows his credentials
Click to follow
The Independent Football

All three will, probably, be in the squad selected today - unless the bash near his eye suffered by Bent, which forced him to depart, proves to be concussion. Sven Goran Eriksson was at The Valley but all that should not overshadow the extraordinary comeback mounted by a Spurs side who, at two goals down, had appeared dead, buried and sorely lamented.

Instead they are transformed into serious Champions' League candidates, while Charlton's own hopes, with a second successive home defeat, are dented. Such are the slight margins that exist.

Such margins also exist with Keane. At times sublime, at others substandard. Spurs' head coach, Martin Jol, was reminded that this was the second away game in which Keane had come from the bench to save his bacon. "Yes, he played against Grimsby and Blackburn too and did not score," Jol said. "It's not his fault."

Not that he regards Keane as a supersub à la David Fairclough. "He's not like that. He should be playing. Jermain [Defoe] is the same." It doesn't help anyone's cause that Jol has "three number nines" and that, as with the other two, Mido wants to play "down the middle".

But Jol, who may, despite his protestations, allow Keane to go in January if he secures the right replacement, added: "With players like Robbie Keane you always have a chance." Indeed so, and it was Jol's gut feeling and boldness which should also be commended in allowing that chance to be taken.

Charlton, too, have been bold this season. Manager Alan Curbishley has rung the changes and reaped the benefit. This morning he can still draw great comfort from the 15 points that have been earned.

"Anyone who was here today will have seen how we have got ourselves a decent start," he said. But that confidence has also caused problems. Maybe now, he said, his players are overplaying, losing the ball in dangerous areas because of their desire to do well.

It certainly did not start like that. For 15 minutes Charlton were abject. They defended ridiculously deep, with Talal El Karkouri making his first start of the season, and should have been punished by Mido, with a header, and Ledley King, with a swivel and shot past the post from a corner.

But then Spurs were caught out. They have a lop-sided look and their lack of natural width on the left was badly exposed, as Jol acknowledged, when Young and Murphy combined for the latter to arc a superb through ball to Bent. His run flat-footed Noureddine Naybet and the exuberant young striker ran on to flick his shot, with the outside of his boot, calmly beyond Paul Robinson.

There could have been a second. Dennis Rommedahl released Alexei Smertin, and he turned the ball back into the path of Bent, who was free inside the six-yard area. He snatched at it, failed to make enough contact and the ball skidded away. It was a bad miss.

Three minutes after the restart, Charlton did score as Jerome Thomas's cute pass released Bent, who was played on-side by a leaden King. Bent appeared to dally but shifted the ball on to his right foot and curled it wonderfully into the net.

King found almost immediate redemption, however, when Mido flicked on Pedro Mendes's free-kick - an award fiercely contended by Curbishley - and the ball struck the shins of the Spurs captain and squirmed back across goal and in.

It was a fluke and, for Charlton, an ill-timed one. "The problem we had is we went 2-0 up and it lasted three minutes," said Curbishley. Tottenham were certainly transformed - a process that was also aided by the introduction of the competitive Teemu Tainio. It was the Finn's reverse pass, after Charlton had sloppily lost possession outside their own area, which picked out Mido, somehow unmarked, and he struck a low, hard shot from an acute angle that beat Stephan Andersen.

Charlton, shocked, almost restored the lead when Murphy's incisive pass found Young, but the full-back was wasteful. Still the home side pressed but as they did so, Chris Powell was dispossessed by Aaron Lennon and Spurs countered. A swift exchange of passes and suddenly Defoe had deftly played in Keane who, unerringly and without breaking stride, easily beat Andersen at his near post.

A somersault and the game was also upside down. "Today you have seen everything you want to see," Curbishley said of the entertainment on show. "Full house. 4-5-1. 4-4-2. 4-3-3. Whatever. Plenty of goals - except that we have to take it on the chin."