It may be the new season but this was a case of the same old Charlton. The Addicks finished last season on a woeful run of form, losing eight and drawing one of their last 10 games, and this poor performance yesterday meant the Londoners carried on exactly where they left off in May. August is the time for putting the drawing board away, but Alan Curbishley will surely have to get it out all over again. The silver lining was that Paolo Di Canio made it on to the pitch as Charlton's latest signing. The cloud for the Charlton manager was that the Italian, who has joined on a free transfer, was in a suit and not his shorts, deemed lacking in match fitness although Curbishley hinted he is not far away from being ready.
But City, too, carried on where they ended the last campaign. Denied a penalty all season until the very last game at Liverpool, they were given one here, somewhat harshly in Curbishley's view, as he called the decision "a disgrace". Scott Parker brushed shoulders with Shaun Wright-Phillips after 12 minutes and from the penalty spot, Anelka steered the ball in low off the post.
There had been an unconvincing start by both sides but that goal spurred City into playing some attractive football, no doubt also encouraged by their 5-0 thrashing of TNS in their Uefa Cup qualifier last Thursday. The Addicks failed to respond adequately to the threats posed by Anelka and Wright-Phillips, and the two combined for City's second goal, the pick of the bunch, after 22 minutes. The midfielder slipped a pass behind Paul Konchesky and Anelka's pace gave him the time to look up and find Antoine Sibierski. The debutant midfielder, signed from Lens in the summer as Ali Benarbia's replacement, did the easy part side-footing home from 10 yards. Although Anelka's strike partner, Robbie Fowler, was largely anonymous, Curbishley's problem was that virtually his whole team had gone missing. The manager blamed himself in part, saying: "Maybe I got the formation wrong."
In the first half, the home side did not once test David Seaman, in his Premiership debut for City. However the former Arsenal and England goalkeeper did not look entirely convincing, occasionally dropping the ball when it was crossed into his area.
Charlton had to make half-time changes but Claus Jensen could only produce a weak shot when something stronger was needed and Luke Young, another substitute, hit the post. But if Charlton thought that the signs of a comeback were there, they disappeared when Mark Fish was sent off. Their central defender tugged Fowler's shirt when he was in on goal and the referee had no option but to show the red card to the South African. It was Charlton's second red card in consecutive home games, after Dean Kiely's dismissal in the last game of last season.
Anelka, who turned in a man of the match performance that was praised by both managers, was then denied his second goal after 83 minutes, but it instead led to Sun Jihai's first. The Frenchman, latching on to a pass from Paulo Wanchope, saw his shot pushed out by Royce, but the Chinese defender was first to the loose ball and scored from a tight angle. It merely confirmed Charlton would also have the same start to this season that they did to last, with a defeat.
Goals: Anelka (13, pen) 0-1; Sibierski (22) 0-2; Sun Jihai (83) 0-3.
Charlton Athletic (3-4-1-2): Royce 5; Fish 3, Rowett 4, Hreidarsson 4; Konchesky 4, Parker 4, Holland 4, Kishishev 3 (Young 4, h-t); Euell 5; Bartlett 2 (Jensen 5, h-t), Lisbie 5 (Johansson, 78). Substitutes not used: Leite (gk), Fortune.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Seaman 5; Tarnat 5, Sommeil 5, Distin 5, Sun Jihai 5; Sinclair 5, Sibierski 5, Barton 6, Wright-Phillips 7; Fowler 4 (Wanchope, 76), Anelka 8 (Tiatto, 90) Subs titutes not used: Weaver (gk), Berkovic, Dunne Bookings: Charlton: Euell, Konchesky. Manchester City: Sibierski, Sun Jihai.
Referee: M Dean 5 (The Wirral).
Man of the match: Anelka.
Attendance: 25,780.Reuse content