George Jones reports from Elland Road
Charlton’s final away match of the season saw them earn maximum points away at Leeds United on Saturday afternoon.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson gave the Addicks a first-half lead with a crisp, left-footed finish and Ademola Lookman doubled their advantage with an equally impressive strike four minutes after the break.
Leeds pulled one back 20 minutes from time through centre-back Sol Bamba but a resolute defensive display, and another brilliant performance from goalkeeper Nick Pope, ensured that the Addicks returned to London with a victory to their name.
Head Coach José Riga made two changes to the side that started against Brighton & Hove Albion at The Valley last Saturday.
Ahmed Kashi made his long-awaited return to first-team action, having recovered from his long-term Achilles injury, and captain Johnnie Jackson also came back into the side.
That meant that Jordan Cousins, who failed a late fitness test, missed out, while Marco Motta dropped back onto the substitute’s bench as well.
Leeds almost grabbed an early lead when Luke Murphy burst through on goal inside three minutes. He latched onto a loose ball in Charlton’s midfield and raced clear but, from a tight angle, Pope spread himself well to make an excellent save from his low strike.
The Addicks responded well and came within a whisker of nudging ahead three minutes later. After Lookman was felled on the edge of the box by Liam Bridcutt, he picked himself up and sent the resulting free-kick inches wide of the post. Leeds stopper Marco Silvestri was rooted to the spot.
Lookman escaped down the left soon afterwards but no-one in red was able to get onto his cut-back, and Stuart Dallas then dragged a 22-yard strike wide of the target for the home side.
Dallas tested Pope with a high, inswinging free-kick in the 18th minute. The goalkeeper did well to tip it over his own crossbar and then claim the corner that followed.
It was proving to be a very end-to-end start to proceedings and only the width of the post then denied Charlton the opening goal. Rod Fanni found Gudmundsson in-field, and, 25 yards from goal, he unleashed a bullet strike that crashed against the base of goal-frame and bounced out.
An ambitious drive from Bridcutt sailed harmlessly over Pope’s goal on 32 minutes and the stopper was then alert to pluck full-back Lewie Coyle’s low cross out of the air.
The home side were beginning to build some momentum a couple of brave blocks from Jorge Teixeira and Johnnie Jackson saw them get in the way Leeds strike inside the area.
Those interventions proved even more important as, two minutes later, the Addicks grabbed the lead. Morgan Fox was released down the left and he whipped in a pinpoint cross that Gudmundsson swept home superbly at the near post.
Pope raced out of his area to beat Whites forward Chris Wood to a long ball forward to keep the lead in tact on 42 minutes and, at the other end, a vital block from Liam Cooper prevented Igor Vetokele from forcing Silvestri into a save.
Charlton headed in 1-0 up at the break and the first action of the second period saw Pope grab hold of a deflected Dallas strike.
A cushioned Gudmundsson ball was just too far ahead of Vetokele for the Addicks, but the visitors would not have to wait too much longer to grab their second.
Lookman cut in from the left and, after feinting to shoot, he made made further inroads inside before releasing a precise drive that nestled into the bottom corner, giving Silvestri no chance.
Leeds came within millimetres of pulling one back on 55 minutes. Wood glanced a header towards the far post that had Pope beaten but bounced down off the underside of the crossbar. The loose ball fell for Bamba but he could only fire into the side netting.
Jackson got in the way of Botaka to concede a corner and Luke Murphy then blazed over the crossbar, after the resulting corner was only cleared to the edge of the box.
Chasing the game, the hosts were carving out the majority of the opportunities and they pulled one back on 71 minutes. Replacement Alex Mowatt floated in a free-kick from the left and Bamba rose, unchallenged, to head beyond Pope from six yards.
A good spell of possession settled things down for the visitors in the immediate aftermath of the goal but Leeds threatened again on 76 minutes when Mowatt threaded Mirco Antenucci in on goal but Pope again stood firm to keep him out.
The Addicks stopper excelled himself once more five minutes later. Wood, Leeds’ top scorer, burst through but the goalkeeper once again refused to be beaten and stuck out a leg to deny him.
Referee Keith Hill indicated six minutes of stoppage time and Charlton came close to making it 3-1 with two of those minutes having elapsed. El-Haji Ba led a counter attack after Fanni had headed a corner clear and, after picking out Harriott on the right side of the box, the wideman saw a strike well blocked.
There was still time for Pope to make another superb stop, this time pushing Mowatt’s top corner-bound strike behind on 95 minutes, but the Addicks held on to record the three points.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Coyle, Bamba, Cooper, Taylor, Bridcutt (Antenucci 66), Murphy (Diagouraga 75), Cook, Dallas (Mowatt 50), Botaka, Wood.
Subs (not used): Peacock-Farrell, Wootton, Phillips, Erwin.
Goal: Bamba 71
Charlton: Pope, Fanni, Diarra, Teixeira, Fox, Kashi, Jackson, Harriott, Gudmundsson (Suk-Young 72), Lookman (Ba 88), Vetokele (Makienok 82).
Subs (not used): Mitov, Sarr, Lennon, Motta.
Goals: Gudmundsson 39, Lookman 49
Booked: Diarra 17 (foul on Wood), Kashi 71 (foul on Taylor)
Att: 25,458 (363 from Charlton)
Referee: Keith Hill