Olly Groome reports from Elland Road
Valiant Charlton came from behind twice to claim a hard-earned point at Leeds United on Tuesday evening as their true grit shone through in a topsy-turvy game at Elland Road.
Two sumptuous Alex Mowatt strikes were cancelled out by Johann Gudmundsson’s own brace with the crucial second coming from the penalty spot after Tal Ben Haim had won a penalty.
And after the Addicks were forced to battle on for the final 10 minutes with only 10 men following Rhoys Wiggins’ injury, it made the solitary point all the more special from a game which boasted plenty of twists and turns in West Yorkshire.
Bob Peeters made three changes to the side which shared a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday three days earlier, including the now-traditional Tuesday evening switch of Lawrie Wilson for Chris Solly at right-back.
Gudmundsson made a welcome return to the starting XI after his impressive turn off the bench against the Owls as he returned from injury to take his position on the right, while Callum Harriott made his first league start of the season on the opposite flank in support of George Tucudean up front.
Igor Vetokele, however, would have to settle for a place on the bench as Peeters continued to manage the striker’s fitness, with new loan arrival Francis Coquelin joining him among the substitutes from the off.
Although the Addicks enjoyed a large spell of possession in the opening exchanges, it was Leeds who got the first shot away.
When right-back Sam Byram hit the line to get forward, he drilled a dangerous ball into the box which was met by Souleymane Doukara, but his glancing shot spun wide to the safety of a goal kick.
And the hosts had another effort on goal after eight minutes which this time tested Stephen Henderson as Tommaso Bianchi drilled a shot straight at the Irishman from the edge of the 18-yard box.
While it was true that Leeds had enjoyed the early chances, it was Charlton who were looking comfortable in possession, and their first half-chance came on the 14-minute mark as Rhoys Wiggins and Harriott combined well, before the latter drilled a cross from the left which saw Tucudean go for an improvised shot with the back of his heel.
But while it might have looked impressive, it was certainly merely hopeful as the ball trickled wide for a goal kick.
As the half wore on, the Whites gained confidence on the ball and enjoyed some good passages of passing play without really hurting the Addicks, although it took a vital interception from Jordan Cousins to clear out of the box when Mirco Antenucci sent a dangerous low cross into the box with white shirts lurking.
With the game stretching, Charlton came close at the other end when Leeds stopper Marco Silvestri failed to claim Johnnie Jackson’s corner leaving Andre Bikey-Amougou to divert the ball goalwards with, what looked like, his thigh.
But as the ball bounced towards the open goal, a Leeds defender tracked back to hook the ball off the line to keep the scores level.
There was very little to separate the sides in the first 45 as Tal Ben Haim made a barnstorming run from the back, all the way to the edge of the hosts’ penalty area before finally being dispossessed, and the pendulum swung immediately back the other way when Leeds embarked on a swift counter attack which culminated in Doukara sprinting wide and firing a shot into the side netting to put the travelling Addicks on the far side’s hearts firmly in their mouths.
Into the second half, however, and it was not long before that pendulum swung firmly in favour of the home side, taking the lead four minutes in.
Leeds did extremely well to play the ball out of a tight situation on the left touchline before finally sending a cross into the danger area.
There, the ball fell to the feet of Alex Mowatt who fluffed his lines at the first attempt as he swung and missed the ball.
But as the Addicks failed to put the midfielder under pressure to clear their lines, it allowed him to regain composure before curling a sweet shot over Henderson and into the top left-hand corner for 1-0.
It had been a far-from-ideal start to the second period for Peeters’ men and the Belgian wasted no time in trying to make amends, introducing Vetokele from the bench in place of Tucudean to provide some bite in attack.
And the Angolan was quickly joined by Coquelin for his Charlton debut with Yoni Buyens giving way as Charlton went in search of an equaliser.
Just after the hour, they got it.
Working the ball into the box from the left-hand side, it fell to Gudmundsson who took a touch before knocking the ball towards goal from a tight angle.
The desperate Leeds defenders tried in vain to keep the ball out as it snuck in off the post (and a Leeds player or two) to send the 303 travelling Charlton fans into raptures.
Suddenly, the Addicks had momentum as it looked likely they would come at the throats of their hosts.
However, while it looked like the Londoners would get firmly on top, they were hit with a gut punch as Leeds regained the lead through Mowatt, just five minutes after they had lost it.
If his first was hit sweetly, Mowatt’s second was quite simply a peach as he received Stephen Warnock’s lay-off before shaping up and bending a shot perfectly into the top left-hand corner from 25 yards.
With the tables very quickly turned back in favour of the hosts, Peeters played his wild card, throwing six-foot-four defender Onyewu on to play up front.
And boy did it pay off.
With a corner being delivered, the USA international was in amongst it as Ben Haim thrown to the floor by Giuseppe Bellusci. And despite few appeals, the referee had no hesitation in pointing straight to the spot to provide Charlton with a golden opportunity to draw level for a second time.
Up stepped Gudmundsson who made no mistake, stroking his spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner to send Silvestri the wrong way and level matters.
Indeed, it was a deserved equaliser, but it had come at a cost.
On winning the corner which led to the penalty, Rhoys Wiggins received an injury which would force him off for the last 10 minutes. And with the Addicks having used up their full quota of subs, they would have to dig in with their backs to the wall and with a numerical disadvantage.
Charlton were hanging on to the point by their fingertips as their goal came under siege. Henderson got his body behind the ball to block a vicious shot from range before Lewis Cook dragged his shot wide.
When the final whistle was finally sounded, it brought sweet relief to the Addicks who had ground out and claimed yet another good point on the road,
Charlton: Henderson; Wilson, Wiggins, Bikey-Amougou, Ben Haim; Gudmundsson, Jackson, Buyens (Coquelin 61), Cousins, Harriott ,( Onyewu 78); Tucudean , (Vetokele 52).
Subs (not used): Pope, Moussa, Fox, Ahearne-Grant.
Booked: Buyens 29 (foul on Antunucci), Cousins 48 (foul on Adryan)
Goals: Gudmundsson 62, 81
Leeds United: Silvestri; Byram, Bellusci, Cooper, Warnock, Cook, Mowatt, Bianchi (Montenegro 90+1), Adryan (Sloth 73), Doukara, Antenucci.
Subs (not used): S Taylor, Berardi, C Taylor, Tonge, Dawson,
Booked: Bianchi 60 (foul on Cousins), Bellusci 80 (foul on Ben Haim)
Goals: Mowatt 49, 67
Referee: G Salisbury
Att: 18,698 (303 from Charlton)