ZZ boosts Charlton's survival hopes

Updated: 2007-03-19 08:47
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China captain Zheng Zhi boosted Charlton's hopes of avoiding relegation as his influential display set up a 2-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday.
ZZ boosts Charlton's survival hopes
China's national team captain Zheng Zhi jumps for the ball and set up a 2-0 win over Newcastle, England, March 18, 2007. []ZZ boosts Charlton's survival hopes
Zheng scored his first goal for Charlton on his full debut and then won a late penalty that was converted by Jerome Thomas as Alan Pardew's side moved to within four points of safety.

Pardew has inspired an impressive revival from the south London club, who looked dead and buried when he took over at Christmas, and they are now unbeaten in their last three matches.

Fourth-bottom Sheffield United are firmly in their sights and this victory means Wigan and Manchester City will also be feeling under pressure as the battle for Premiership survival hots up.

While Newcastle are free of any relegation worries, this defeat at The Valley completed a miserable four days for Glenn Roeder's side, who slumped out of the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

Zheng had made just three substitute appearances since joining on loan from Shandong Luneng and the midfielder seized his chance to show what he can do in impressive fashion.

Roeder's team should have been in front in the sixth minute as Antoine Sibierski ran onto Damien Duff's pass, but the French midfielder's poor control allowed Souleymane Diarwara to make a saving tackle.

But Zheng quickly made an impact as his skill won a free-kick that Talal El Karkouri blasted inches over the bar.

Darren Bent had shaken off a knee injury to start for Charlton but the forward, who has been named in England's squad for their forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers, was starved of service in a lacklustre first half.

Yet Charlton would have gone into the break ahead if Nolberto Solano hadn't alertly headed off the line after Marcus Bent's cross looped over Shay Given.

The Addicks started the second half on top and took the lead in the 53rd minute after Amady Faye fouled James Milner.

Darren Bent took the free-kick and curled his shot over the wall and onto bar. The ball bounced down towards Zheng and, with Given unable to recover, he was able to head into the empty net.

Pardew's team didn't sit back on their lead and they briefly thought they had scored a second moments later.

Dennis Rommedahl tapped-in in Marcus Bent's pass, but the Danish winger's effort was ruled out for offside.

Newcastle's season was effectively ended after their midweek UEFA Cup capitulation against AZ Alkmaar and they showed litte stomach for a scrap against a Charlton side fighting for their lives.

It took a superb stop from Given to keep out Jerome Thomas's corner and Darren Bent had just failed to get a touch.

Newcastle had no answer to Darren Bent's movement and, when he headed Thomas's cross against a post, Zheng should have done better than lift his shot over the bar.

With 20 minutes to go, Darren Bent missed an opportunity to seal the points as he sent a shot from Rommedahl's cross into the side-netting.

But Newcastle were going through the motions and Thomas sealed a crucial win from the spot in the 88th minute after Solano fouled Zheng.