Triple treat as Reds stroll through Valley
By Ben Walker
Three goals, three points and third spot.
Liverpool went into Saturday’s match against Charlton on the back of a four-match unbeaten run in the Premiership and it took just three minutes for Rafael Benitez’s attacking gameplan to pay dividends.
Former Liverpool defender Djimi Traore’s foul on Jermaine Pennant in the box gave the Reds the opportunity to score from the spot and Spaniard Xabi Alonso made no mistake, piloting the penalty down the middle for an early 1-0 lead.
Benitez made his objective clear by picking two wingers (Pennant and Gonzalez) and pairing his top striking combination of Bellamy and Kuyt up front and the opening 20 minutes was riddled with Liverpool attack.
In fact the home side was lucky not be at least 4-0 down inside 20 minutes after Gonzalez (5th minute), Bellamy (7th), Kuyt (14th) and Pennant (16th) missed great opportunities.
For the opening 25 minutes, The Valley pitch resembled a schoolyard as Liverpool repeatedly toyed with Charlton’s defence and employed a strong passing game.
The home team’s only real chance of the first half came when Herman Hreidarsson missed an open goal after a strong save from Reina deflected the ball back to Charlton.
The half-time break should have been a blessing for Charlton but it wasn’t as playmaker Andy Redi was forced off with an injury and replaced by Darren Ambrose.
The speed of Craig Bellamy and Kuyt was causing all sorts of trouble for the immobile Charlton defence and the Dutchman missed two more opportunities in the opening 18 minutes of the second half.
In the 67th minutes Benitez showed his attacking intentions once again when he replaced Chilean wingman Gonzalez with the silky skills of Luis Garcia, who quickly earned a yellow card for kicking the ball into the crowd after being called offside.
Despite Liverpool’s dominance throughout the match, Charlton striker Darren Bent went close to levelling the score 14 minutes from time.
A minute afterwards Kuyt was replaced by Fabio Aurelio and just five minutes later Welshman Bellamy sealed the deal for the Reds with a stunning strike after a brilliant Steve Finnan through-ball.
Steven Gerrard scored his fourth goal from his last six matches two minutes from time to hand Liverpool a 3-0 win and you guessed it, their third win on the trot. Gerrard curled the ball into the far top corner from inside the left area of the box after turning and being allowed time and space by poor Charlton defending.
Liverpool 3 (Alonso 3 pen, Bellamy 82, Gerrard 88) defeated Charlton 0 at The Valley.