Chelsea 2 Charlton Athletic 1: Champions repel charge from wounded Charlton

Chelsea ride their luck after dominating first period
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In the end, whistles of relief greeted a close-run thing for Chelsea which should have been sealed and signed by half-time. Charlton, routinely embarrassed in the first 45 minutes as Chelsea cavorted and flaunted their superiority, overcame the need to rearrange the side because of injury to three players so well that they carried the battle to the champions attractively and impressively.

Such thoughts were remote as Chelsea controlled the ball for the best part of two minutes at the kick-off, laying out their wares as it were. Then, after six minutes, they were in front. Jose Mourinho rewarded Wayne Bridge's recent good form with a starting place, while new man Ashley Cole was parked on the bench on debut day.

It was Bridge, darting down the left, who provided the cross which won a corner. Taken by Frank Lampard, this was headed towards goal by Michael Ballack, making his home debut. Though Bryan Hughes, stationed near the line, managed to repel it, the ball went straight out to Didier Drogba, who drove home with relish.

You could almost see Chelsea stifling the yawns as their midfield dictated the pace of play, certain that the goals would come flooding. That they did not was down to an assured display in the Charlton goal by Scott Carson, and indifferent finishing. Drogba sidefooted an easy opening wide, Lampard was twice off target, and as Shaun Wright-Phillips tormented Djimi Traoré relentlessly Charlton seemed on the point of caving in.

Strangely, it was an injury to Andy Reid, with Dennis Romme-dahl brought on, which provided the seed of Charlton's recovery. It might have been more impressive had Darren Bent accepted a couple of first-half chances. He missed the first altogether and applied a glancing header to the second when a firm one was needed. As it was, Chelsea would not have been flattered by a four-goal lead at the interval.

Traoré, who appeared to injure himself while fouling Wright-Phillips, limped away early in the second half with a suspected hamstring strain and, with an hour gone, Charlton lost another defender, Souleymane Diawara, who hurt himself conceding a corner. Their rejigged side were performing creditably by then, however, and had equalised in the 53rd minute.

Rommedahl, growing in influence by the minute, slid a short ball to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on the edge of the penalty area. The former Chelsea man coolly side-stepped Ricardo Carvalho before side-footing the ball just inside Peter Cech's right-hand post. So perfectly was the goal taken that even the Chelsea fans applauded.

The corner which brought Diawara's departure produced Chelsea's second goal. Carvalho got in a powerful header, but the deflection that took it away from Carson was Amdy Faye's.

Charlton celebrated what looked like a second equaliser from Darren Bent, but the striker had controlled the ball with a hand in the act of shooting. To add to Charlton's woes, the referee, Alan Wiley, then awarded Chelsea an "iffy" penalty as the substitute, Salomon Kalou, fell under Talal El Karkouri's shoulder charge. Justice was done when Carson brilliantly turned aside Lampard's kick.

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