Liverpool's finish falls short

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Charlton Athletic 1 Liverpool 1

Another fixture to add to their already congested list was probably not what Liverpool would have wanted last night, but by the end of a fitfully rousing Coca-Cola Cup third-round tie they could be grateful that their First Division opponents had not sneaked a victory which for the most part looked beyond them.

Although it was Charlton who took the lead, after 18 minutes, Liverpool equalised only four minutes later and what promised to be a night of blood and thunder turned into something that did not quite live up to Cup football tradition. Liverpool were "sub-standard", in the view of their manager Roy Evans, but still created ample opportunities to wrap up the match; Charlton played to a game plan which put so much emphasis on remaining alert to potential danger that they never really threw themselves into the quest for a second goal the fervent home support craved.

This was the biggest match at The Valley since Charlton moved back to their famous old ground in 1992, a full house of 15,000 producing record receipts of pounds 152,000. Most of them got the start they wanted - a series of positive raids by Charlton which culminated in a goal by David Whyte that reflected poorly on the Liverpool defence. Perhaps it was the simplicity of it - a long clearance by the goalkeeper Mike Salmon, a flick-on by Carl Leaburn and a lob by Whyte that David James's dash to the edge of the area positively invited.

Liverpool's positional switches and changes of pace were causing problems for a Charlton team not used to attacking of such sophistication, and they were truly exposed by an expertly worked equaliser. Patrik Berger, running from deep, picked up John Barnes' through-ball and, having got to the by-line, crossed for Robbie Fowler to score from the edge of the six-yard box.

Liverpool should have had more. Salmon saved well from Jason McAteer and Fowler, and Berger shot wastefully over with six minutes left. But in the dying moments, a frantic scramble in the Liverpool goalmouth ended with Shaun Newton having a shot that was deflected just wide of James' right-hand post.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Salmon; Brown, Chapple, Rufus, Barness; Newton, Robinson, O'Connell, Otto; Whyte (Lisbie, 85), Leaburn. Substitutes not used: Allen, Balmer.

Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Scales, Matteo, Babb; McAteer, Barnes, Thomas, McManaman, Bjornebye; Berger, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Ruddock, Redknapp, Collymore.

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).