Saturday, February 10, 2007

Central Park

'Park' is one of the most popular Korean names, so if you are ever asked to relocate to Seoul and are keen to learn how green the city is, it's best not to ask, "Are there many parks in Seoul?", because the densely populated urban landscape may disappoint you in light of the affirmative response.

This particular Park (Ji-Sung Park to be precise) was central to the outcome of this game because having looked remarkably comfortable until then, Charlton only conceded thanks to a fortuitous deflected cross. Indeed until we began to tire late in the second half and conceded again, we were very much in the game and on another day might have secured a famous point.

It seems my 6-0 prediction was woefully disrespectful to this 'new' Charlton team, because that is certainly what they are, not least thanks to three debutants, at least two of which (Song and Zhi) were very impressive. In fairness though, my attendance prediction was only wrong by seven people. As mentioned here before, Pards has clearly instilled some belief where previously there was none, and whilst United are not the same team without Ronaldo, this was not the procession that was widely forecast. If Billy Joel was in a 'New York State of Mind', then it seems I made my prediction from here whilst still in a 'Les Reed' or 'Iain Dowie' 'State of Mind' (or Curbs? - Ed.)

As soon as Ambrose forced a fine save from an uncharacteristically strong header inside ten minutes, I dared to sense that we might give United a decent game. Admittedly Carson had already denied Park at full-stretch, but as the game wore on, whilst we did not match United's possession in either quantity or quality, we denied them space in key areas with Song particularly performing the holding role expertly. Indeed, the goal aside their only other real chance occurred thanks to the individual brilliance of Rooney who majestically controlled a long ball in such breathtaking fashion that it caused Thatcher and Diawara to collide, and it was only the slightly lazy finish which denied him one of the goals of the season.

The second half was little different, and the best chance of the half fell to Charlton on 76 minutes when a Rommedahl free-kick was flicked on by Bent only to arc tantalisingly just past the far post. Pardew's pained touchline reaction suggested he knew it was a game-turning moment, and five minutes later it proved so as Fletcher delivered the killer blow.

There were impressive performances all over the pitch from Charlton (relative admittedly to the low expectations that I had prior to kick-off), and credit ought also to go especially to Sankofa who put in his best performance for the club, Carson as usual, and also to Zhi who was introduced following Faye's injury, and showed enough neat touches and cute runs to suggest he will have more than a bit part in our relegation battle. Bougherra meanwhile is clearly a 'footballer' first and a 'defender' second, and occasionally a little less guile was required (not more), but he will have easier days than this one.

The scarcely believable result at Upton Park has ensured that we can claim a clear moral victory over Curbishley's men this evening (although it suggests Watford's obituary was written prematurely, reassuringly so perhaps with Wigan their next visitors). Sheffield United's win however over hapless Spurs makes it even clearer that it is now almost certainly 'three from four', so let's just hope Arsenal are in the mood tomorrow against Wigan to keep them in sight.

Saturday Feb 24th can scarcely come soon enough.


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