Teenage striker Jude Bellingham was Birmingham City’s hero again as he hit the winner for the second successive game to end promoted Charlton’s unbeaten start to the season.
But, in an ill-tempered game of four bookings on the pitch, Addicks boss Lee Bowyer was red-carded against his former club and City manager Pep Clotet booked by referee Matthew Donohue after a late touchline disagreement over the visitors’ alleged ‘time-wasting’.
“Someone from their staff threw a ball onto the pitch to try and waste time, which I’ve never seen before,” said Bowyer. “The ball then ended up next to me. I don’t know how.
“So I pick it up and start walking towards their bench shouting if it was their ball. I threw it back, and because the referee said I left my technical area and throwing the ball that was a red card.
“I’ve never heard of that rule in my life. I think it’s disappointing because me and the players don’t like losing games, especially ones where I don’t think we deserved to lose.”
“It was just something that was a coincidence,” said Blues manager Pep Clotet. “If Mr Bowyer took it in the wrong way then I’m sorry.
“I have a lot of respect for him, firstly what he means for Birmingham and secondly what he’s doing with the team this season.”
It was 16-year-old Bellingham who again stole the show on his full league debut for Blues with his 52nd-minute goal, a fortnight after becoming the youngest scorer in the club’s history with his match-winner against Stoke City.
Right wing-back Max Colin made a forward break before playing it wide to winger Kerim Mrabti, who found room in the penalty area before picking out the unmarked Bellingham, who tucked his shot home to condemn Charlton to only their third defeat in 26 games.
His goal earned a fourth straight league win in the capital for Blues, going back to last season, including wins at Millwall and QPR and then a 1-0 victory at Brentford on the opening day of this campaign.
Since then, Clotet’s side had suffered three successive 3-0 away defeats – at Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest and Swansea – but in Bellingham they appear to have unearthed their most exciting teenage discovery since club legend Trevor Francis 49 years ago.
Bowyer’s Addicks, who would have gone top if they had won, stay second, while City climb to eighth.
This was only their second win in their last nine visits to the Valley, where Charlton had not been beaten since last October, by Birmingham’s current St Andrew’s tenants Coventry City.
In a poor first half, it was just before the break when Charlton keeper Dillon Phillips was called into action for the first time, tipping over a Lukas Jutkiewicz header.
But the action hotted up after the interval as both keepers were made to work a lot harder, Blues actually ending up with more efforts on targets than their hosts – 12 to 11.
Tempers got strained too, as all three of Blues’ bookings came in the final 15 minutes either side of the petty late incident involving both benches.
Birmingham City boss Pep Clotet:
“It’s a massive step forward for us, because for the result and a second away win against an in-form side it makes it more special. We knew we would have to do everything right.
“All the attitude from my players had to be right. We managed to be very strong defensively, we were able to stamp our football on the pitch.
“Jude is proof that we trust what we do with the academy, in that you cannot buy in football the feeling our fans have. The feeling we have for Jude to come in now is something we’re very proud of.
“I want to remind him of the importance of this chance. It’s not only me giving the chance but the team.”