Derby County’s unbeaten start to the 2014/15 campaign came to a halt at the Valley this evening, as goals from George Tucudean, Yoni Buyens and Igor Vetokele cancelled out a Jamie Ward double.
Tucudean deservedly put the home side ahead inside 11 minutes, pivoting in the penalty area before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
Ward’s fifth goal in five games against the Addicks drew Derby level, but a Buyens penalty deep in first-half stoppage time restored Charlton’s lead, before Vetokele nodded in from close range in the second period to extend Bob Peeters’ side’s advantage.
With five minutes remaining, Ward’s low strike squirted through the legs of goalkeeper Nick Pope to give the Rams a fighting chance, but despite a late barrage of pressure, Charlton held on for the points.
It was a vibrant opening from the hosts, who were buoyed by their last-gasp 2-1 home victory over Wigan Athletic at the weekend.
The Addicks retained possession well and shifted the pace of the game effortlessly from defence into attack, and it was by no means a surprise to see Peeters’ side take the lead.
In the eleventh minute, Tucudean collected Jordan Cousins’ left-wing cross, swivelled expertly in the penalty area and drove the ball into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant.
The goal kicked a rigid Derby into life, as Ward and Simon Dawkins soon started drifting inside and providing the spark and impetus in the final third. It was in fact the former’s long diagonal ball towards Chris Martin that almost brought the Rams level within 60 seconds.
The 28-year-old picked out Martin, who nodded the ball into the path of Craig Bryson. The Scotsman then, in turn, found midfield partner Jeff Hendrick, whose first time shot dropped straight into the arms of Pope.
As the half went on, the Rams’ players began to interchange position and dovetail to great effect, and it was the fluidity of play that led to a Derby equaliser.
Martin’s shot from the edge of the penalty area was superbly tipped away by Pope, but from the follow up, Hendrick pulled the ball back, leaving Bryson to intelligently let the ball run for Ward, who sumptuously curled the ball into the top corner.
With the opening 45 minutes drawing to a close, the Rams rallied for a second goal, but in a cruel twist of fate, the Addicks poured forward in a swift counter-attacking move, which ultimately proved fruitful.
Tucudean wriggled into the penalty area, twisting one way then turning the other. Amidst a melee of players, the forward tumbled to the floor, with Richard Keogh seemingly penalised for bringing him down. Buyens coolly converted the resultant spot kick, firing high into the net in the fourth minute of added time in the first-half.
Head Coach Steve McClaren acted swiftly at half-time, replacing Will Hughes with Omar Mascarell in the holding role, but the central midfielder was almost the culprit for a Charlton third, when his loose pass was picked up by Vetokele, but the forward could not get the better of Grant, who beat the ball clear.
A flurry of Derby opportunities at goal followed, as Bryson saw a snap shot deflect wide, Martin flicked a header over, while Keogh rifled a half-volley over the crossbar.
However, in the 78th minute, Charlton’s next act in front of goal was to prove pivotal. Grant’s lofted ball forward was picked up by Franck Moussa. The substitutes’ subsequent cross to the far post was tossed back into the six-yard box, where Vetokele was well positioned to head in.
Northern Ireland international Ward ensured a frantic finish, when his daisy cutter rolled through the legs of an embarrassed Pope, but the Addicks did enough to hold on for their second consecutive home victory.
Charlton Athletic: Pope (GK); Gomez, Jackson, Bikey-Amougou, Gudmundsson (Fox 89’), Vetokele, Wiggins, Buyens, Cousins (Wilson 64’), Ben Haim, Tucudean (Moussa 45’).
Substitutes: Phillips (GK), Morrison, Harriott, Church.
Derby County: Grant (GK); Christie, Forsyth, Bryson, Buxton, Keogh, Dawkins (Russell 69’), Hendrick (Best 79’), Martin, Ward, Hughes (Mascarell 45’).
Substitutes: Roos (GK), L. Naylor, Eustace, Whitbread.