Charlton, unbeaten in five London derbies this season, comprehensively punctured Tottenham's title pretensions at the Valley yesterday. Victory would have lifted Tottenham to second in the Premiership table. Instead, Charlton stamped their authority on the game from the first minute and find themselves level with Manchester United in mid-table, a position of luxury their manager, Alan Curbishley, would have been more than happy to accept a few weeks ago.
"We had some heroes out there today," said Curbishley. Notable among them Jason Euell, who laid on the first of Kevin Lisbie's two goals, and needed only a goal of his own to round off a virtuoso display of the centre-forward's art. Scott Parker was not far behind, and an extraordinary second-half save by Dean Kiely from Teddy Sheringham ensured that Gus Poyet's superb late volley was nothing more than a consolation.
Tottenham's counter-attacking options were limited once they had conceded two goals inside 20 minutes, but they could not be faulted for courage, contributing hugely to a riveting afternoon's entertainment. Tottenham have at least joined high-class company. Arsenal and Chelsea have already become extras in Charlton's version of Neighbours this season.
"You can't concede sloppy goals like that and expect things to go your way," said Glenn Hoddle, the Spurs manager. "Too many players were below par." Specifically in defence, where Dean Richards, Chris Perry and Ledley King looked surprisingly cumbersome against the pace of Lisbie and the bustle of Euell.
Tottenham could point to individual errors, certainly for the first goal, after four minutes, when Richards allowed the rampant Euell to sneak behind him. Euell's cross was pulled back neatly into the stride of Graham Stuart, who side-footed into an empty net from 12 yards. "A bizarre goal," said Hoddle. But, for the first half-hour, Charlton were simply inspired, and had Claus Jensen done better with a run and shot in the dying moments of the first half, the game would have been over well before Spurs had discovered their rhythm.
Barely had the visitors had time to absorb the impact of the first goal than they went further behind. Once again there were question marks in the Spurs central defence as the quicksilver Lisbie, who had scored the winner at Chelsea in midweek, found space inside the penalty area to drive home a loose ball from 12 yards. "We were stunned," said Hoddle ruefully.
Spurs were not alone in their bewilderment. The whole of the Valley was stunned. But it was no more than the home team deserved. There was an urgency and a neatness about Charlton's approach play which has been notably absent this season, a solidity in defence, too, where the Portuguese international Jorge Costa, on loan from Porto, barely broke sweat as white shirts swirled around him. Alongside Costa, young Jon Fortune has the gait of a young Paul McGrath, though one hopes not the self-destructive tendencies.
Tottenham's smartest riposte in the first half involved intricate interpassing between Poyet and Sheringham before Darren Anderton's acutely angled shot was blocked by Kiely. Luke Young was booked for savaging Mauricio Taricco, and from the free-kick, Sheringham rose to flick a header just wide. A goal then and Tottenham would have been right back in the game. Instead, Jensen, released through the soft centre of the Tottenham defence, could not quite connect cleanly with a right-foot shot. Hoddle reshuffled his midfield at half-time, replacing the ineffective Goran Bunjevcevic with Steffen Iversen, returning after an ankle injury. Taricco switched to the right and poor little Sergei Rebrov, bought to score goals, was deployed as an auxiliary left wing-back.
But it was the referee, Steve Dunn, who offered Tottenham their best chance, controversially ruling that a deflection off Parker, collected by Kiely, was a back-pass. Kiely was booked in the ensuing kerfuffle, and Anderton, after long deliberation, drove the free-kick high and wide, to Rebrov's obvious disgust.
Tottenham did get the ball in the net soon after, but Sheringham was clearly offside as he deflected Poyet's shot past Kiely. Charlton began to tire and to defend too deep, but with Euell terrorising Richards and Perry they always looked dangerous on the break. Tottenham must have known this was not going to be their day when a Sheringham volley direct from a corner produced a stunning save from Kiely. The Charlton goalkeeper received a standing ovation, in which even Sheringham joined. Goal of the season became save of the season. When, 12 minutes from time, Parker sprinted clear of Poyet and fed Lisbie for the third, Charlton's position as cocks of the capital was assured.
Charlton Athletic 3
Stuart 4, Lisbie 19, 78
Tottenham Hotspur 1
Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 25,125Reuse content