Olly Groome reports from The Amex Stadium
Charlton secured a point from a remarkable game on the South Coast as the Addicks kept their unbeaten start to the season going with a 2-2 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Igor Vetokele was the goalscoring hero, putting his side in front twice for his fourth and fifth goals of the campaign, only to be denied all three points by Lewis Dunk on two occasions – breaking the Addicks’ hearts with a last-gasp equaliser in injury time.
The Seagulls had the better of the game throughout but Charlton’s defence performed astutely from beginning to end and, with Vetokele proving a deadly force at the other end, it was a good point earned despite the last-gasp nature of the hosts’ leveller.
There was just one change to the side which shared a draw with Huddersfield Town in the previous league encounter as Stephen Henderson made a welcome return between the sticks following his hamstring injury suffered during the victory over Wigan earlier this month.
His return saw Nick Pope take his place among the substitutes after his three-game stint in the side.
Brighton made a strong start at the Amex, enjoying a good spell of pressure from the off with the Addicks’ first touch of the ball only serving to give away a corner which Henderson was equal to.
But despite the Seagulls’ confident start it was Charlton who made a barnstorming impact after just three and a half minutes.
Finally getting hold of possession, Peeters’ men streamed forward with Yoni Buyens who played an intelligent ball over the top to Vetokele.
The forward bounded towards goal before laying off George Tucudean, but with the pass just behind the Romanian, it seemed to stop the attack dead in its tracks.
However, the ball found its way back to Vetokele who composed himself and arrowed a low shot straight into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the box to give the Addicks an early lead.
The hosts were shell-shocked but went straight about restoring parity and very nearly did just 60 seconds later but for Henderson.
The Seagulls passed their way into the box where Joao Teixeira found himself one-on-one with the Irishman who stuck an instinctive palm out to divert the ball out for a corner as the last line of defence.
Brighton continued to worry the visitors with large spells of possession and perhaps should have drawn level when full-back Bruno Saltor scooped a half-volley well over the bar when unmarked from 10 yards while Danny Holla sent his volley even further into the stratosphere.
The home side were causing all kinds of problems for Charlton while in possession but, vitally, the men in red showed great discipline at the back, keeping their shape well as they kept their opponents locked out on their approach to the 18-yard box.
With six minutes remaining in the first half, the Seagulls had their best chance yet, albeit as a result of a contentious corner.
While the solid Andre Bikey-Amougou appeared to usher the ball out off of Craig Mackail-Smith, there was surprise when the referee’s assistant pointed toward the corner. The flag kick was knocked on by Dunk for Adrian Colunga on the corner of the six-yard box, but he could only stretch to fire a volley over.
Having soaked up Brighton’s pressure for much of the first period, the Addicks went close to nicking a second through Johann Berg Gudmundsson, whose effort from range took a wicked deflection and spun just wide for their first and only corner of the first 45.
And as the clock ticked over into additional time, Tucudean came even closer, holding play up well before fizzing a good-looking volley from 25 yards which slammed into the side netting.
Although Charlton had, in truth, seen little of the ball, they still looked capable and as referee Keith Hill blew a welcome whistle for the break, Peeters’ men could retreat for the dressing rooms with confidence.
There was a change at the break as Simon Church entered the fray in place of Tucudean but there would a familiar start to the half as Brighton continued on the front foot.
Joe Bennett knocked a header down for Mackail-Smith to swivel a shot which beat Henderson, but not his left-hand upright while Bennett fired an angled shot into the side netting shortly after.
Come the hour, Charlton appeared slightly more settled, using their own spells of possession to take the sting out of the Seagulls’ game while occasionally trying to catch the hosts on the counter.
But while Brighton had looked likely on the floor throughout, an equaliser came on 68 minutes via the unlikely source of a corner.
With the ball whipped in from the right, Dunk rose highest to bullet a header past Henderson to draw his side deservedly level.
Inevitably, the home side had their tails up as they went in search of another.
Substitute Kazenga LuaLua tested Henderson with a stinging drive while the hugely impressive Tal Ben Haim made a last-ditch block to prevent a certain goal when Teixeira ran clear on goal as the Seagulls piled on the pressure.
But what happened next could not have been more against the run of play.
A rare foray forward saw Church beat his man brilliantly wide right to send a measured centre into Vetokele on the edge of the six yard box.
And the Angolan, who had looked a spent force midway through the half, defied his tiredness with his back to goal, spinning and jigging his way clear to finally fire his shot in off the post and put his side back in front with 15 minutes remaining.
The goal had stunned the Amex Stadium. Brighton had been on top virtually from start to finish but the Addicks’ attacking prowess had shone through, knocking the stuffing somewhat out of the Sussex side’s own forward verve.
Crosses were being over-hit and passes too long as the vocal Brighton crowd began to lose faith, giving the visitors the incentive to hold on.
Four minutes of time were added on with all red-shirted hands to the pump, but hearts were broken in the final minute.
Brighton’s 12th corner of the game saw Seagulls’ stopper David Stockdale journey forward and while the initial ball was cleared only as far as LuaLua, his chipped ball in was headed in once again by Dunk to draw level.
While the goal was difficult to take after the Addicks had done so well to claw themselves in front, it could not be denied, the point on the South Coast was an extremely good one, particularly weighed up with the balance of play.
And what was more important, Peeters’ men remain unbeaten with a well-earned international break of rest to come.
Charlton: Henderson; Solly, Wiggins, Bikey-Amougou, Ben Haim; Gudmundsson (Fox 80), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins (Wilson 61); Vetokele, Tucudean (Church 46).
Subs (not used): Pope, Morrison, Moussa, Harriott.
Booked: Church 81 (diving)
Goals: Vetokele 4, 75
Brighton: Stockdale; Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Bennett; Holla, Forster-Caskey (Baldock 78), Crofts (Gardner 46); Teixeira, Mackail-Smith (LuaLua 61), Colunga.
Subs (not used): Ankergren, Hughes, Calderon, Ince.
Booked: Forster-Caskey 16 (foul on Vetokele), Dunk 61 (foul on Vetokele)
Goals: Dunk 67, 90+3
Referee: K Hill
Att: 26, 189 (1,992 from Charlton)