Zenden deepens Charlton pain

Charlton Athletic 1 - Middlesbrough 2
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The Independent Football

A strong bank balance does not always mean success on the field. Charlton opened their match programme at the weekend with news of record profits but by the end of the afternoon their manager Alan Curbishley, who made five changes in search of a winning formula, was ruing one of the worst weeks in his 13 years at the club.

A strong bank balance does not always mean success on the field. Charlton opened their match programme at the weekend with news of record profits but by the end of the afternoon their manager Alan Curbishley, who made five changes in search of a winning formula, was ruing one of the worst weeks in his 13 years at the club.

Last season Charlton finished seventh but defeat to a resurgent Middlesbrough was their third reverse in seven days in Cup and League, making next weekend's game at equally deflated Spurs massive for both clubs.

Curbishley admitted as much, but pointed to mitigating circumstances. "Results breed confidence. I would like some ricochets to go in and things like that to happen. We're not the team we were last year because we've got different personnel. Players left at bad times and we brought players in, perhaps, at bad times as well. It's not just down to the new signings where we find ourselves, of course not.

"[Dennis] Rommedahl came in three weeks after everybody else because of Euro 2004; Danny Murphy and Franny Jeffers came in three or four days before the season started. Perhaps I should have said: 'None of you are playing for five or six weeks'."

Contrast that with Steve McClaren's Middlesbrough, who have built on last season's League Cup success to reach the dizzy heights of the top four. Saturday's victory was their first at The Valley since 1949 and of all their recent signings, none impressed more than Dutchman Boudewijn Zenden.

Zenden scored the winner after Talal El Karkouri's 21st-minute own goal was cancelled out a minute into the second half when Jonatan Johansson got on the end of Jason Euell's sweetly threaded pass. The Dutchman curled the winner around Dean Kiely in the 58th minute after Ray Parlour's pass set him free.

McClaren, whose team face Lazio in the Uefa Cup on Thursday, said: "We play an attacking team and have Bolo in there with a licence to get forward. He has played left-back, left wing, central midfield, even second striker. He has done so well. That is why we have brought him here, he is so adaptable.

"Much has been made of our summer signings, but the type of player we chose was vital. Apart from desire to prove themselves, we looked for quality - played at the top, been at the top and wanting to stay at the top. You have to do your homework on players' lifestyles, everybody does that. We've been fortunate that they gelled together very quickly."

Goals: El Karkouri (21) og 0-1; Johansson (46) 1-1; Zenden (58) 1-2.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2); Kiely; Young, Perry, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson; Kishishev (Murphy, 66), Holland, Euell, Thomas (Konchesky, 82); Bartlett (Lisbie, 66), Johansson. Substitutes not used: Andersen, Fortune.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; McMahon, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Parlour, Boateng, Zenden, Downing (Doriva, 75); Hasselbaink, Viduka (Job, 79). Substitutes not used: Nash, Cooper, Morrison.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Charlton: El Karkouri, Perry, Murphy.

Man of the match: Zenden.

Attendance: 26,031.

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