Tottenham 5 Charlton Athletic 1: Berbatov barrage scuppers Charlton

Bulgarian forward strikes twice as Reed's strugglers are humbled by rampaging Tottenham
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The Independent Football

This was a springboard game. Victory for Spurs and they were jumping from mid-table towards the European places. Anything for Charlton and there was real hope that they were finally bouncing back. In the end the visitors totally mistimed the moment and slipped up embarrassingly.

A bright start, made bright perhaps by Spurs's sluggishness, was obliterated by the kind of woefully ragged capitulation that seriously questions their ability to rouse themselves for any kind of fight to remain in the Premiership.

That Charlton were so comprehensively trounced by a side who did not exactly excel also told its own story. Even so a ninth successive home victory, garnered by another impressive performance, and two goals, from Dimitar Berbatov, aided by a razor-sharp Aaron Lennon, is a formidable mark for Spurs.

Berbatov is proving full value. And with a price tag of £10.9m that is quite an asset. The Bulgarian now has nine goals in his first season in English football, a season that has been affected by injury. More than that, he is proving the leader of the line, and classy pointman, that every successful team craves.

He took both goals - to open and close the scoring - with aplomb. For the first Tom Huddlestone ran forward, slipped a pass to Lennon whose clever reverse ball picked out Berbatov inside the area and he calmly poked his shot beyond Scott Carson. For the second he collected Paul Robinson's long throw and ran at Talal El Karkouri. Amady Faye intervened, the ball cannoned off his team-mate - and Berbatov slammed a low shot between Carson's legs from an acute angle.

"He is settling," growled the manager, Martin Jol, of his most expensive acquisition. The Dutchman is still smarting from last week's dismantling at the hands of Arsenal and pointed out that with just two defeats in 17 games his team had an enviable record - and maybe that was something Spurs, and their board perhaps, needed to remember. "Everyone was panicking," Jol added.

Charlton have gone beyond panic .Their manager, Les Reed, having overseen his first victory in midweek, appeared utterly frustrated. Afterwards he kept the players in the dressing room for a "frank and earnest" discussion. "The conclusion was that we are good enough to get ourselves out of it," he said while admitting that not too many points are likely to be gathered away from home.

Reed set his team out to attack. With Andy Reid - on his return to White Hart Lane after leaving last summer - playing behind the strikers there was a sharpness that Spurs failed to match. But, after Berbatov's first goal, and Jol giving Lennon a free role, the impetus switched. Darren Bent sloppily lost possession, it ran to Lennon and although his cross was headed out the ball was driven in by Teemu Tainio, deflecting off Hermann Hreidarsson.

On half-time there was hope for Charlton when Reid tricked beyond Huddlestone and delivered a low cross that spun off Michael Dawson's boot, as he stretched in front of Lloyd Sam, and over Robinson. That hope was quickly extinguished. After the break and Pascal Chimbonda chipped the ball to Berbatov who, alertly, headed into Steed Malbranque's path. The midfielder chested down and volleyed into the corner of the net.

Soon it was a rout. Bryan Hughes dallied, was dispossessed by Lennon and the ball ran to Jermain Defoe who struck a fierce right-footed shot from just outside the area that easily beat Carson. Berbatov had the final flourish and although Charlton fluffed three late opportunities, the contest was over. They can only hope that their Premiership life has not already been extinguished, too.

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