Bent and Murphy sink Sunderland
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Danny Murphy's sublime free kick, and a brace from debutant Darren Bent handed ten-man Charlton a 3-1 victory over Premiership new-boys Sunderland at The Stadium of Light.
Murphy fired home from the edge of the box to restore Charlton's lead, after Bent's opener had been cancelled out by Andy Gray, and the former Ipswich man put a gloss on the scoreline in the dying minutes with a typical run and finish.
But it was the dismissal of another debutant, Darren Ambrose, that marred the match, with the former Newcastle ace red carded for a wild challenge on Stephen Wright.
Charlton had thrown everything at Sunderland through an uncomfortable opening half for The Black Cats, but found themselves on level terms despite opening the scoring.
Alexei Smertin, bustling through the middle impressively, had given an early warning when he drove wide, but it was not heeded and it was Bent who broke the deadlock in the favour of the visitors 11 minutes in.
The young striker had scored late on in his last game against Sunderland for Ipswich and, after being released by a superb Ambrose ball over the top, had the composure to take his time, wait for a chance and fire home.
It could have been a lot worse for the Championship winners, despite almost being handed a life-line when Stephan Andersen's quick throw was intercepted.
Murphy had a wonderful chance to head home, but failed to hit the back of the net and Radostin Kishishev blazed wide when well placed.
Ambrose, impressing in the middle, had a shot deflected narrowly wide and Bent should have added a second when put through by a slide-rule Murphy pass, only to fluff his lines and his shot.
Smertin came closest to extending Charlton's lead, when a corner routine played him in on the edge of the box, but his shot was tipped onto the face of the crossbar by Kelvin Davis and away to safety.
Suddenly, against the run of play, it was all square - good work from Andrew Welsh down the left saw him cross for Dean Whitehead, and although his shot was well saved by Andersen, debutant Andy Gray was on hand to lash home the rebound.
Ambrose started the second half strongly, teeing himself up for a shot that drifted narrowly wide, but the former Newcastle man was soon embroiled in controversy after diving into a challenge with Wright.
The midfielder went over the ball, catching Wright's leg at a dangerous height, and referee Howard Webb had no hesitation in producing a red card.
Welsh had been instrumental in the first and his jinking run almost gave a buoyed Sunderland a second - cutting inside and picking out Gray, only for the former Sheffield United man to go with the rather odd option of chesting the ball low down and not getting any power behind his effort.
But with the game seemingly sliding inexorably towards Sunderland, up popped Murphy to make amends for his first half miss, stepping up to an enticingly placed free kick and picking out the top corner as Davis was left motionless.
Sunderland tried to rally - with Julio Arca stamping his authority on the match and firing in a shot that was dealt with comfortably by Andersen.
Inevitably, the game became increasingly scrappy, as Charlton defended their lead and Sunderland looked for inspiration.
Stephen Elliott should have done better when getting on the end of Arca's low cross-come-shot, but turned the ball wide and Gray fired over after a melee in the box.
Sunderland were then hit with a sucker-punch as Bent made it a debut to remember, racing clear to slot home neatly, and remind Sunderland that it's tough at the top - even with a man advantage.Sunderland v Charlton player ratings
|Sunderland||Team Name||Charlton Athletic|
|5||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||5|
|2||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6|
|16||Total Fouls Conceded||17|
Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||37||48|
|10||West Ham United||37||43|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||37||25|