Arsenal 4 v 0 Charlton Athletic

Barclays Premiership

Report by Gary Haines

CHARLTON'S first ever trip to the Emirates Stadium was a tale of two strikers as Alan Pardew tasted his first defeat since taking charge.

The Addicks were missing star striker Darren Bent who injured his knee against Aston Villa but Arsenal's own talisman scored one and made two more as the hosts strolled to victory.

Thierry Henry converted a 29th-minute penalty after youngster Osei Sankofa was dismissed for barging over Robin van Persie in the box.

The Frenchman then set up Justin Hoyte to add a second on the stroke of half-time and then won a second penalty 15 minutes from time before tossing the ball to van Persie to convert from 12 yards.

Impressive Dutchman van Persie then completed a double-double against the Addicks this term, clipping the ball past Carson in the final minute to complete the four score.

Playing against this kind of Arsenal side is hard on a level playing field but taking them on with a man short proved to be nigh on impossible.

The visitors had soaked up a host of early pressure before Sankofa's foul just short of 30 minutes, although the hosts enjoyed a slice of luck in the build-up after an initial Francesc Fabregas shot looped up off a defender and was tipped on to the bar by Carson.

It was one of a clutch of top saves from the on loan keeper and Pardew will know his side's goal difference may be a lot worse right now but for Carson's stellar performance.

Fabregas and Henry were just two players denied either side of the break - and there were also reciprical goalline clearances - but Arsenal had time for a late sucker-punch before the interval as Hoyte raced away to make it 2-0.

The second half was one-sided as Charlton battled on manfully with 10 men and Tomas Rosicky hit the post before van Persie netted from 12 yards, and then a little closer in at the death.

In terms of team news Bent's absence meant a change of system for Pardew with Marcus Bent operating alone up front behind a five-man midfield which included the returning Amady Faye and Saturday's substitute goal hero Bryan Hughes.

There was also a change at the back where Diawara came in for Hermann Hreidarsson, who has a knee niggle.

So with Darren Bent missing his first Premiership game of the season, Pardew was relying on his wide men Dennis Rommedahl and Darren Ambrose to offer assistance to his other Bent.

Diawara was also back in the first team fold alongside the ever-present Talal El Karkouri in the centre of defence after not featuring in the last three outings.

One time Arsenal trialist Radostin Kishishev dropped to the Addicks bench as Faye returned and there were also reserve slots for Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Jonathan Fortune and Thomas Myhre alongside former Gunners youngster Jerome Thomas.

There was also an interesting sideline on the touchline with Pardew pitting his wits against Arsene Wenger for the first time since the pair clashed on the touchline at Upton Park in early November.

Pardew of course was at West Ham United then, and he enjoyed a victory on his last visit to this region of North London, a stone's throw away at Highbury.

The hosts had had their own injury problems of late but Henry was back after his much-publicised neck injury.

Charlton needed no reminding of his talents, nor that of his strike partner van Persie who struck twice in Arsenal's 2-1 win at The Valley earlier in the season.

In Henry's absence the young Dutch striker had hit the goal trail himself while Alexander Hleb and Fabregas returned to the hosts' midfield at a sparkling venue in which the Gunners are now unbeaten in 15 competitive clashes.

Gilberto Silva sent a sizzling drive just over the bar with three minutes on the clock and van Persie's effort from the edge of the box on 11 minutes took a slight deflection before flying wide of the right upright.

While the hosts were perhaps slightly laborious in the early stages, they were soon in full flow, carving out a succession of chances in the next three minutes.

First van Persie's corner found the head of Philippe Senderos only for the Swiss defender's header to be cleared off the line by Hughes.

Moments later van Persie fed Fabregas in space in the box and when the Spaniard took aim with a ferocious shot it looked like the hosts would take the lead.

But the Gunners reckoned without Carson who flung up his arm to produce a magnificent tip over.

El Karkouri sliced a curling cross from van Persie behind for a corner moments later and Henry stole in front of Sankofa to head a clipped centre from Fabregas inches wide of the right upright.

The Frenchman might have done better and, the first wave of pressure under their belts, the visitors tried to feel their way into the game.

But it was a slice of luck for the Gunners which saw them take the lead a minute shy of the half hour - and left Charlton with more than one mountain to climb.

There was nothing wrong with Charlton's commitment as a clutch of black-shirted players got close to Fabregas as he tried his luck from the edge of the box.

But the ball took a sizeable deflection off one such player and what turned into a looping shot had Carson scrambling back.

The keeper managed to tip the ball on to the bar and when van Persie sized up the rebound he was barged to the ground by Sankofa.

Despite the presence of El Karkouri close by, referee Riley immediately brandished the red card to leave Charlton up against it and Henry stroked home the penalty on his return to the side to make that task even tougher.

A dance with the injured Emmanuel Adebayor followed on the touchline before the game resumed.

Diawara was yellow-carded for a foul on van Persie with the Dutchman lucky to escape censure after his late lunging challenge on Djimi Traore moments later.

The unlucky Hughes made way for Fortune 12 minutes before the break as the visitors regrouped with El Karkouri shifting to right-back.

Marcus Bent shot high and wide after breaking on the right and the half appeared to be petering out before the hosts doubled their lead in stoppage time.

Hoyte was the benefactor this time, raiding down the right and swapping passes with Henry on the edge of the box before coolly shooting into the bottom corner.

The half-time whistle followed seconds later and van Persie raced clear in the opening minute of the second half only to be foiled by Carson.

Ambrose forced a low save from Jens Lehmann four minutes in with a shot on the run while the hosts hit the outside of the post on 53 minutes.

Henry was the architect, although the home side enjoyed a lucky ricochet before Tomas Rosicky fired a low shot against the left upright.

Henry had the ball in the net for a third time three minutes later but the unselfish play from Hleb proved the hosts undoing.

The midfielder weaved his way into a shooting position but opted to switch the ball across with just Carson to beat and although Henry put the ball away it was chalked off.

The Gunners carved their way through again moments later and Henry was first denied by Carson and then El Karkouri who scrambled the follow-up effort off the line.

Carson then saved with his feet from Fabregas before making a smothering stop from Rosicky on 63 minutes.

Moments later Thomas came on for Ambrose but the onslaught continued as Henry filtered the ball over for van Persie to volley straight at Carson when he ought to have done better Henry shot straight at Carson when well placed as the red and white wave showed little sign of relenting and the duo locked horns again in spectacular fashion in the 65th minute.

Hleb raced through from midfield and picked out his skipper on the left but Carson dived to his left to superbly turn away the striker's effort.

Gilberto Silva then made way for Mathieu Flamini and the free-flowing hosts made it 3-0 15 minutes from time.

Riley pointed to the spot for a second time after Diawara tugged back Henry and the Frenchman passed up the spot-kick duties to van Persie who obliged from 12 yards.

Kishishev replaced Faye and Rosicky made way for Jeremie Aliadiere before the restart and Denilson soon came on for Fabregas.

Poor Charlton were struggling as the one-sided contest continued but the visiting supporters in a 60,057 crowd still bellowed out a version of Valley Floyd Road from behind Lehmann's goal.

And a miserable night was compounded in the final minute as van Persie doubled his tally.

Flamini latched on to a headed clearance from Diawara and clipped the ball through for van Persie and although Carson got a hand to his chip the ball still had enough legs to cross the line.

And that was that as the Gunners purred back to third in the Premiership with Pardew left to ponder a 11-day top flight gap before plotting his next move in the relegation battle.


CHARLTON: Carson; Sankofa, Traore, El Karkouri, Diawara, Rommedahl, Holland, Faye (Kishishev, 77), Hughes (Fortune, 33), Ambrose (Thomas, 63), M Bent.

SUBS NOT USED: Myhre, Hasselbaink.

ATT: 60,057.