Charlton 1-4 Cardiff City
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 12:20AM GMT, Sunday, 18 December 2016
The Addicks started well and were unfortunate not to take an early lead, but goals either side of the interval from Chloe Chivers and Kerry Bartlett saw the visitors race into a two-goal lead.
Charley Clifford pulled a goal back, giving the hosts a glimmer of hope, but that was snuffed out just three minutes later through Chivers again, before Hope Suominen put the finishing touches to a flattering, although fully deserved, result for Cardiff.
The result sees Charlton lose ground on their title challengers, with both Cardiff and Coventry United leapfrogging them into third and second place respectively.
First-team coach Riteesh Mishra made three changes from the side that beat West Brom last weekend, giving a debut to new signing Katie Bottom; and restoring goalkeeper Alex Baker and midfielder Charlotte Lee to the starting XI.
It was Clifford, fast becoming Charlton’s biggest goalscoring threat given a more attacking midfield role in recent weeks, who went close within the opening minute, seeing a header clips the outside of the post.
Cardiff offered glimpses of attacking intent of their own early on, though, with Emily Allen and Suominen seeing efforts saved by Baker.
And they opened the scoring inside the first 25 minutes when Chivers latched onto a ball over the top of Charlton’s defence, cut inside and sent a shot beyond Baker and into the near corner.
Both sides then had the woodwork to thank for keeping the score to the solitary goal at the halfway mark, with a Kim Dixson piledriver tipped onto the post by Cardiff keeper Laura O’Sullivan. Moments later Chivers struck the upright from long range and Baker was alert enough to keep Bartlett out from point-blank range from the rebound.
Again, Charlton were unfortunate not to grab an early goal in the second period, with Graham heading an Avilla Bergin cross goalwards only to see it cleared off the line.
But, on 54 minutes Cardiff doubled their advantage as Bartlett’s close-range shot squirmed under Baker and in. Moments later Bartlett almost had a carbon-copy of that goal, this time her effort was saved by the legs of Baker.
Amongst the disappointment of the result, Bottom’s debut was reassuring for the future, with the former West Ham captain impressing both in and out of possession. And it was her incisive through ball that led to Charlton’s only goal, with Graham latching on and crossing to the back post where Clifford slid home.
The hope that goal gave the home side was fleeting, though, as Chivers curled a fine effort into the top corner to restore their two-goal lead.
Bottom almost capped her impressive debut with an even better strike, but O’Sullivan against came to her side’s rescue, flying through the air to palm Bottom’s 30-yard strike to safety.
And two minutes later it was game over as Baker rushed from her line to try and intercept a ball over the top of the defence; Suominen reached the pass first, though, and was able to compose herself and find the far corner.
Charlton tried in vain to find a way back from three goals down and Rosey Sullivan had a shot cleared off the line before substitute Bupe Okeowo’s powerful run ended with a good save from O’Sullivan.
It was not to be, though, and it was Cardiff who keep the pressure on league leaders Tottenham Hotspur, with the south-east Londoners slipping five points off the pace.
Charlton: Baker, Flack, Dixson, Sullivan, Coombs, Clifford (Monaghan), Bergin, Lee (Okeowo), Graham, Bottom, Southgate. Subs (not used): Nash, Jackson.