Redknapp made nine changes for this game but it was the introduction of an extra ingredient at half time that turned the stodge being served up in the first forty-five into something palatable. The substitution of Luka Modric for Wilson Palacios was the catalyst that meant that within 15 minutes of the restart the tie was over and the lack lustre and mediocre efforts of the first half forgotten.
Palacios and Sandro have played together before, notably in the League Cup against the Gooners and once again the outcome was a bit of a surprise in that the result was a powder puff midfield a long way from imposing the air of physical authority that the reputation of the two players would have one believe was on the cards. Kranjcar on the left and Townsend on the right provided moments of creativity (especially the debutant) but in general we laboured and let Charlton crowd the midfield & close the door on any openings. Occasional sights of goal fell to Pav who troubled the keeper with a long range drive with his left foot and put a header just over the bar.
At the other end the away team got behind our full backs a couple of times and pinged balls across that were either just out of reach of onrushing midfielders or caught them off balance. Definite reminders of our indifference to the prospect of keeping clean sheets this season.
Defoe was quiet early on and no doubt frustrated at being placed in the role of pantomime villain by the surprisingly noisy away fans. When in the Premiership Charlton rarely filled their allocation at WHL but, perhaps attracted by the cheap tickets and prospect of seeing how well their protÃ©gÃ© Jermain was doing these days, took up half the Park Lane for this game. Well most of the game, a lot of the top tier were gone well before the end.
They kept the noise up until Modric came on and made a game that everyone else had been stumbling and crashing through look ever so easy. His touch was assured and positive, his running direct and strong and bordering on the incredible given his slight appearance. All of a sudden we had them pushed back with the ball being played swiftly and at angles. Having said that the breakthrough goal came from an unexpected source when the almost totally left footed Townsend spotted a gap and decided to try a right footed punt from range. The shot was into the corner but the keeper seemed slow in getting down and the deadlock was broken. Charlton then did what no defence in the top flight has done for years and let Defoe turn and run at them on the edge of the box. He ran past the Robins defence apparently unchallenged for his first goal and belted in the rebound from his own shot for his second.
Until the last few minutes it was damage limitation for the away side from then on as we played the ball into and around the Charlton area without increasing our lead. It couldâ€™ve been six or seven; all of Kranjcar, Modric, Assou-Ekotto, Townsend and Pav had multiple efforts blocked or go just wide. Cudicini was called into action late on as Reid and Sodje went close with consolation efforts.
So, a good day at the office all round but in particular for Modric and Townsend. The difference in quality displayed by the Croatian compared to what had gone before really was quite stark. Townsend played out of position down the right and displayed a light and skilful touch. He was quick, bright and intelligent and, Danny Roseâ€™s goal notwithstanding, gave one of the best full debuts by a youngster weâ€™ve seen for a while.
Not many people wonâ€™t have groaned at the thought of Fulham away in the next round. At least though weâ€™ve apparently been spared the Beckham circus and can just get on with football.
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