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Charlton edge closer to the Blades
1:29pm Monday 19th March 2007 in Charlton Match Reports
Charlton Atheltic 2 v 0 Newcastle United
Report by Gary Haines
A FIRST goal in English football from Zheng Zhi helped Charlton to three priceless Premiership points on Mothering Sunday.
The Chinese superstar marked his full debut for the Addicks with a headed opener nine minutes into the second half after Darren Bent's free-kick had rattled back off the bar.
And the midfielder also had a hand in Charlton's clinching second two minutes from time when his surging run into the box was halted by Nolberto Solano.
With Bent recently substituted Jerome Thomas stepped up to coolly beat Shay Given from the penalty spot.
There is little doubting the hosts deserved the points against their shot-shy visitors, who have not managed a Premiership goal for approaching five hours.
Out of Europe and safe in the top flight, Charlton's needs surely outweighed those of their visitors who just about edged a first-half devoid of any significant incident, enjoying plenty of possession but not troubling Scott Carson.
Then their big-money striker Obafemi Martins wastefully steered a shot across the face of goal and wide three minutes after the restart, having chested down the ball and spun into space.
The hosts then assumed control and Zheng, who again impressed on his fourth outing for the Addicks, gave his side the lead.
The captain of the China national side, the midfielder made himself a hero at The Valley as he followed up to head the ball home.
There was only one winner after that as Newcastle's big-hitters flattered to deceive against a wall of red and Thomas almost saw a cross curl straight in from the left before he slotted home his third goal in two games at the death.
There was even time for Carson to emphasise his call-up to the England squad with a stunning late save from Charles N'Zogbia to complete another great day for boss Alan Pardew.
The big team news saw Darren Bent fit to lead Charlton with the strike-ace shrugging off a knee problem to lead the forward line with namesake Marcus.
There was also a full debut for Chinese star Zheng after three impressive cameos from the bench while Hermann Hreidarsson was also back after a knee injury and with Ben Thatcher still sidelined, the Icelander slotted in at left-back.
Zheng came in for an injured Darren Ambrose in midfield while Madjid Bougherra was also fit again after his debut injury at Manchester United and started on the bench.
Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Osei Sankofa joined the ranks of the walking wounded this week while Luke Young made his 200th appearance for the club.
Manchester City had been replaced by Sheffield United as Charlton's closest rivals in the battle to avoid the drop and boss Pardew knew a win would haul his side to within four points of the Blades - which they duly did.
The Addicks came up against a Magpies side whose UEFA Cup dream crashed and burned in the Netherlands on Thursday.
Glenn Roeder had been beset by injuries himself this season and Solano and Damien Duff occupied the full-back berths.
The goal threat was provided by Martins while they were skippered by former Valley favourite Scott Parker.
The rain started to lash down amid an already blustery afternoon as the Magpies kicked-off and Parker was roundly booed from the opening whistle.
And the midfielder offered the first effort of the afternoon, slicing well wide from 25 yards - an effort much appreciated by the home faithful.
There was a minor scare for the hosts two minutes later as Duff and Kieron Dyer combined to find Antoine Sibierski in all kinds of space on the inside right channel.
But the Frenchman's first touch was far too heavy and allowed Souleymane Diawara - back from suspension - to get across and make a saving challenge.
The visitors were looking the livelier in the early running with Charlton conceding a clutch of free-kicks, but as the sun emerged from the grey skies the hosts started to build up some momentum.
They showed for the first time on 16 minutes as Parker's high challenge on Zheng, which took out the Chinese around the rib cage, offered the Addicks a free-kick just outside the D.
The ball was rolled right to Talal El Karkouri but the Moroccan blasted wide of the post.
At the other end another slick Newcastle break saw Martins pick out James Milner on the right but he put a decent opening high into the stands.
Both sides had few chances as the half meandered along with both Diawara and Young requiring treatment, but it was Alexandre Song who left the field in discomfort five minutes before the break to be replaced by Amdy Faye.
Parker shanked another shot horribly wide on 44 minutes while Diawara spooned a shot over the bar at the second attempt from just outside the box in injury time.
Faye's fine cross was headed behind by Solano seconds later but the corner was gathered by Shay Given with both keepers making to the break without having to make a save of any note.
Marcus Bent, who looked to be carrying a knock in the latter stages of the first half, did not reappear after the break as Dennis Rommedahl entered the fray leaving Zheng to push into a more advanced role.
Faye was booked for a foul on Parker and it was the Magpies who spurned the best chance of the afternoon three minutes in.
There was more luck than judgement from Martins as he collected a drilled pass from Emre in the middle and suddenly he had just Carson to beat.
But, with his second touch the striker sliced the ball across the face of goal and wide allowing the Addicks to breathe a sigh of relief.
Milner hooked over at a corner for the visitors but it was Charlton who took a priceless lead in the 54th minute.
Milner was penalised for a nudge some 25 yards out and a host of red shirts gathered around the ball.
Eventually it was Darren Bent who curled an effort that beat Given but crashed back off the bar.
Zheng was the first to react, however, darting forward to meet the loose ball and loop in a header.
The Valley erupted - and it was almost 2-0 on 58 minutes after a wicked curling cross eluded Darren Bent in the middle but was drifting in to the bottom corner before Given scrambled across to tip the ball behind.
El Karkouri got up well ahead of Martins to head clear a dangerous Milner cross with the Magpies probing being blocked by a wall of red.
And back at the other end, Zheng spurned a glorious chance to double his tally on 65 minutes.
Thomas was again the architect, swinging over another delicious cross that found Darren Bent at the far post.
Given reacted brilliantly to claw away the striker's goalbound header but Zheng was on the follow-up again only to blaze the ball high over the bar.
Captain Bent, offside as it turned out, slashed another chance into the side-netting after a cross had skimmed off a Magpies head and found him in all kinds of space on the left.
The petulant Solano was eventually presented with a yellow card on 71 minutes, his foul on Thomas one too many in referee Dermot Gallagher's book.
Parker got back to cut out a Darren Bent cross aimed at Rommedahl after Thomas had sent the striker scampering away on a two-on-one break.
Newcastle had penalty claims against an El Karkouri handball waved away and soon the disappointing Dyer made way for Charles N'Zogbia in the 76th minute.
Moments later Zheng skipped effortlessly past Duff but saw his cut-back batted behind by Given.
Neither Darren Bent nor Zheng could get good contact after a deep free-kick bounced awkwardly in the box and Bent brushed off Oguchi Onyewu and cut inside before blazing over with Zheng barged over at the edge of the box at the same time.
The skipper enjoyed a rapturous ovation when replaced by Kevin Lisbie seven minutes from time while Rommedahl's volley warmed the hands of Given.
Parker collected a yellow card after catching Holland late two minutes later and the tireless home midfielder, having assumed the skipper's armband, sent a tired effort wide as the seconds ticked down.
But the hosts were offered the chance to seal it two minutes from time as Zheng drove into the box and was sent sprawling by Solano.
The Peruvian was perhaps fortunate not to collect a second yellow card after Gallagher pointed to the spot.
But it mattered not a jot as, in the absence of the departed Darren Bent, Thomas stepped up to coolly stroke the ball into the bottom right corner.
"We are staying up" echoed round The Valley and just to complete a fine day keeper Carson got in on the act in injury time, reacting superbly to tip over a rasping drive from N'Zogbia and highlighting just why he is in the England squad.
Seven points from three games suggests the teams outside the dangerzone might start craning their necks now.
CHARLTON: Carson, Young, Hreidarsson, Diawara, El Karkouri, Zheng, Holland, Song (Faye, 40), Thomas, M Bent (Rommedahl, 46), D Bent (Lisbie, 83).
SUBS NOT USED: Randolph, Bougherra.