George Jones reports from The Valley
Charlton suffered stoppage-time heartbreak at The Valley on Saturday as they lost 4-3 to Reading in the Championship.
A hat-trick from Yaya Sanogo had seen the Addicks fight back from 1-0 down and then 3-1 down to seemingly secure a point, but Deniss Rakel’s late strike won it for the visitors.
The result leaves the Addicks seven points from safety with 12 league fixtures remaining.
The Royals had taken an early lead when former Addick Yann Kermorgant nodded home from inside the box. Sanogo’s first quickly levelled the tie for the hosts but Kermorgant’s second and a strike from Ola John gave the visitors a commanding lead at the interval.
The Arsenal loanee pulled one back for Charlton with a powerful header shortly after the break and his secured his treble by bundling home from close range after Ali Al-Habsi failed to hold onto Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s fierce drive.
José Riga’s men looked the likelier of the two sides to grab a late winner but it was the Royals who took all three points when Rakel’s turned home Jordan Obita’s free-kick from a tight angle.
Riga stuck with the 3-4-1-2 formation that enjoyed some success at Preston North End on Tuesday night, but made five changes in personnel.
Yun Suk-Young came in for his debut, Sanogo and Rod Fanni were handed their maiden Charlton starts, while El-Hadji Ba and Alou Diarra also earned recalls - the latter having recovered from a foot injury.
The Royals forced the opening chance of the game. Johan broke into the box and laid the ball back to Stephen Quinn, who fired a strike against the top of the crossbar from the corner of the box.
The visitors went in front on four minutes. John was again the creative spark as he weaved his way into the penalty area and crossed to the back post where Kermorgant met it with a firm header into the far corner.
But, as they did in midweek, the Addicks restored parity almost immediately. Sanogo picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and, after knocking possession through the legs of Jake Cooper, he drilled beyond the left arm of Al-Habsi and into the corner of the net.
In an end-to-end start to the game, Sanogo broke into the box again for Charlton before Kermorgant sent an audacious lob into the net from 40 yards. Fortunately for the Addicks, referee Nigel Miller had already blown for handball against the Frenchman.
Charlton were next to go close. Gudmundsson escaped the attention of Michael Hector on the right flank and cut possession back to goalscorer Sanogo, who aimed a low shot at goal that Al-Habsi made a smart stop from.
Simon Makienok was well placed to clear a corner-bound Kermorgant header off the line after 23 minutes and, straight afterwards, Al-Habsi saved comfortably from Gudmundsson’s close-range shot, following some decent link-up play between Ba and Sanogo.
A delicious cross from debutant Suk-Young just eluded the outstretched leg of Makienok as the Addicks looked to get themselves in front soon afterwards, before Norwood stung the palms of Stephen Henderson with a 25-yard drive at the other end.
A swift counter attack from the Addicks ended with Suk-Young firing a tame drive into Al-Habsi’s arms. Reading restored their lead moments later.
Oliver Norwood won a 50-50 challenge in midfield and found Hal Robson-Kanu; the Welshman gave possession to Kermorgant on the corner of the box and the former Addick cut inside and curled beyond Henderson.
It was 3-1 on 42 minutes. Kermorgant split the Addicks’ defence in half with a through ball that John latched upon and slotted past Henderson and in.
The Royals started the second period well and John grazed the top of the crossbar two minutes in, before Robson-Kanu sent a powerful effort over the top from the Dutchman’s inviting cross.
The Addicks responded and pulled a goal back soon afterwards. Half-time substitute Zakarya Bergdich floated in a lovely cross that Sanogo met with a powerful header.
Al-Habsi got hands to it, where it then ricocheted off Cooper and bounced back over the goal line to reduce the deficit to just one.
Now with their tails up, Charlton went in search of their second equaliser. Marco Motta fizzed wide and Gudmundsson just could not get Sanogo’s knock-down under control as he raced into the box.
Henderson produced a superb save to tip Robson-Kanu’s stinging drive over the bar with 53 minutes on the clock and, at the other end, only a goal-line clearance from Reading’s Paul McShane denied Sanogo his hat-trick after he had poked the ball beyond Al-Habsi.
The Londoners should have had their leveller just after the hour mark. Bergdich beat Chris Gunter and Paul McShane to Sanogo’s flick on but, with only Al-Habsi to beat, the goalkeeper made an excellent save from his placed finish.
The Oman goalkeeper held onto Sanogo’s angled drive, with Makienok ready to pounce on 70 minutes. Fanni then denied Reading’s Garath McCleary of a clear sight of goal with an important block inside his own penalty area five minutes later.
Replacement Callum Harriot jinked beyond two men to reach the byline as the clash entered the final 10 minutes. Al-Habsi was on hand to smother the ball from the winger but he could not deny the home side with eight minutes remaining.
He only managed to get his chest behind a bullet strike from Gudmundsson; the loose ball fell for Sanogo and he gobbled up the rebound from inside the six yard box.
Now buoyed, and well backed by the home faithful, Charlton went in search of an unlikely winner. Bergdich led a counter attack down the left and Suk-Young then did likewise but both attempts broke down.
Reading sealed the points two minutes into stoppage time. Jordan Obita’s deep free-kick found Rakels at the far post and he turned home from a narrow angle.
Charlton: Henderson, Fanni, Johnson, Teixeira, Motta (Harriott 76), Suk-Young, Diarra, Ba, Gudmundsson, Sanogo (Ghoochannejhad 89), Makienok.
Subs (not used): Pope, Fox, Poyet, Lookman.
Goals: Sanogo 7, 49, 84
Booked: Gudmundsson 82 (foul on Hector)
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, McShane, Cooper, Obita, Hector, Norwood (Williams 65), Quinn (Rakels 87), Robson-Kanu, John (McCleary 70), Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Bond, Ferdinand, Piazon, Cox.
Goals: Kermorgant 4, 35, John 42, Rakels 90+2
Booked: Williams 76 (foul on Sanogo)
Attendance: 21,506 (3025 Reading fans)
Referee: N Miller