Defences, who needs them? With only minimal assistance from the men at the back, Charlton Athletic and West Ham conjured up the most memorable London derby of the season, surpassing Charlton's dramatic 4-2 victory at Arsenal in their previous match. This one might have finished with a scoreline closer to that of the most famous match ever played at The Valley, when Bill Shankly's Huddersfield Town lost 7-6 after leading 5-1 with 20 minutes to play.
On that occasion the defending was presumably not too clever. Last night it was woeful, and West Ham were the worst offenders. After conceding 12 goals in successive away games at Everton and Blackburn, they seemed to have tightened up, with the Czech Tomas Repka looking a solid acquisition. Here, he was as flimsy as those around him. But what wonderful entertainment it all made.
Two heroes emerged for the visitors: Paul Kitson, who had not started in 21 months, nor scored for a year longer, claimed a hat-trick in little more than an hour of an astonishing return; Jermain Defoe, the teenager lured away from Charlton in acrimonious circumstances after training with them since the age of 10, appeared in his now familiar role as a substitute and seemed to have won the game in the 85th minute. Instead, it was Jonatan Johansson, with an overhead kick in stoppage time, who brought it to a breathless climax, adding his second goal to two from the rapidly improving Jason Euell.
Euell, who had made an indifferent start after becoming Charlton's most expensive signing in the summer, swapped goals like sword-strokes with Kitson in an enthralling first half. The West Ham man only playing because of Frédéric Kanouté's hamstring injury was first to strike after just three minutes, driving in Paolo di Canio's pass off the post.
Changing formation to match their opponents' 3-5-2, Charlton slowly began to look much more dangerous, and equalised in the 21st minute following the first of many defensive howlers. West Ham's three centre-halves failed to deal with Mark Kinsella's gently chipped free-kick and Euell was left on his own to beat Shaka Hislop at the second attempt. The next goal, seven minutes later, was no better from the visitors' point of view: Repka was caught dwelling on the ball by Johansson, whose pass allowed Euell to score from a tight angle. A few minutes more and Kitson had drawn level in his private duel with the home striker, slipping home a clever ball from the former Charlton left-back Scott Minto.
Euell might have scored three more before the interval but it was his partner, Johansson, who was next to break through West Ham's thin light-blue line, running intelligently on to Scott Parker's perfect pass. Needless to say, no defender had gone with him.
West Ham responded by sending on Steve Lomas, who was appearing for the first time in 10 months, and Joe Cole. Neither had touched the ball before their team drew level once more. Di Canio crossed and Trevor Sinclair, right on the bye-line, set up Kitson for his hat-trick only the second in the Premiership this season.
There were still two more twists. The gifted Defoe, for whom West Ham were ordered by the Football Association to pay £1.4m compensation, finished off Christian Dailly's cross with the composure that has already made that sum a bargain; and in added time Johansson's overhead kick rounded off an extraordinary night. "We haven't served up anything for our fans at home this year," said Alan Curbishley. They have now.
Charlton (3-5-2): Kiely 5; Fish 7, Brown 5; Konchesky 5; Young 5 (Robinson, 86), Parker 6 (Bartlett, 86), Kinsella 7, Jensen 7, Powell 6; Euell 8, Johansson 6. Substitutes not used: Roberts (gk), Stuart, Fortune.
West Ham (3-5-2): Hislop 4; Repka 4, Foxe 3, Dailly 3; Schemmel 5, Sinclair 7, Carrick 6, Hutchison 5 (Cole 6, 62), Minto 6 (Lomas 5, 62); Di Canio 7, Kitson 8 (Defoe 77). Substitutes not used: James (gk), Moncur.
Referee: A Wiley 7 (Staffordshire).Reuse content