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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Premiership wrap: Liverpool thrash Addicks

LONDON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Liverpool moved up to third in the Premier League after they won 3-0 at Charlton Athletic and rivals Arsenal could only draw 2-2 with Portsmouth after being two goals down on Saturday.

An early penalty from Xabi Alonso and late goals by Craig Bellamy and captain Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool an easy victory over a Charlton side rooted in the relegation zone.

A third consecutive high-scoring league win moved Liverpool on to 31 points, just ahead of Arsenal (30) and Portsmouth (29) after the south-coast side's entertaining draw in north London.

Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins scored Newcastle United's goals in a 2-1 home win over bottom club Watford, striker David Bentley got a late winner as Blackburn Rovers won 2-1 at Reading and Sheffield United beat Wigan Athletic 1-0 away.

Despite another big victory, after 4-0 routs of Wigan and Fulham, Liverpool are still adrift of champions Chelsea (39) and leaders Manchester United (44), who both play on Sunday.

Charlton were in trouble after just two minutes when their former Liverpool defender Djimi Traore swung his boot into the face of Jermaine Pennant as he tried to intercept Mark Gonzalez's lofted cross from the left wing.

Referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot and Spanish midfielder Alonso converted to put Liverpool in front.

Bellamy volleyed past keeper Thomas Myhre after running on to a neat through-ball in the 82nd minute and Gerrard added a third in the 88th when he picked his spot after a knockdown by substitute Peter Crouch.

'We created a lot of chances, we scored three goals but we could have scored two or three more,' Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said.

Charlton's Les Reed said: 'We had a couple of chances, we didn't take them and then got punished for some bad defending.

'That made it 2-0 and put it out of our grasp...we did lack confidence today.'

Portsmouth, fielding two former Arsenal stalwarts in striker Nwankwo Kanu and defender Sol Campbell, scored either side of the break through French defender Noe Pamarot and Matthew Taylor.


After four 3-0 wins and four 1-1 draws, Arsenal looked set for a first home league defeat at their new Emirates Stadium, before everything changed in five minutes.

Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the 58th minute, just three minutes after replacing Jeremy Aliadiere, when he sidefooted in a good ball from teenager Theo Walcott.

Arsenal levelled two minutes later when a deflected Adebayor cross found its way to Walcott and his ball into the area was steered home by Brazilian midfielder Gilberto.

Manager Arsene Wenger pointed to Arsenal's schedule with four games since Dec. 6 and said: 'After their second goal we needed...exceptional character.

'I give them a lot of credit, even if we're disappointed not to have won the game, they showed exceptional quality.'

Along with the dropped points, though, Wenger said a hamstring injury would rule out Swedish midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg for the festive period.

Pompey manager Harry Redknapp was in stoical mood, saying: 'In the end, to come here and pick up a point is a fantastic result for us.' Sixth-placed Bolton Wanderers were playing Aston Villa in the day's late kickoff.

Newcastle shrugged off a midweek defeat at Chelsea with another win courtesy of Martins, who also scored twice in their 3-1 win at Blackburn the previous weekend.

The Nigerian struck twice in the second half, either side of an equaliser from Watford's French striker Hameur Bouazza.

Bentley got a superb late winner for Blackburn, rifling in after a long run, while Rob Hulse scored Sheffield United's winner.