Trotters triumph over Gunners
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: 03/12/05 4:55pm
Bolton derailed Arsenal's rejuvenated title challenge as they exposed defensive frailties to claim a 2-0 victory at The Reebok Stadium.
The venue has never been a happy hunting ground for Arsene Wenger, and he was left exasperated as errors from his back-line, particularly a shocker from Gilberto, allowed Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye and Stelios Giannakopoulos to find the net in the first half.
It was a timely moment for Diagne-Faye to score his first goal for the club, as he signed a permanent deal for Sam Allardyce's side earlier in the week, but the Senegalese midfielder should have been dismissed in the second half for a blatant handball.
Thierry Henry hit the post twice in an excruciatingly frustrating afternoon for The Gunners, as they ended a six-match winning streak to fall 14 points behind London rivals Chelsea.
Arsenal started playing a neat passing game as they pressed the home side back, and Freddie Ljungberg headed weakly at Jussi Jaaskelainen from Robin van Persie's cross before Francesc Fabregas also saw a headed effort gathered by the keeper.
However, Bolton then enjoyed a sustained period of pressure from set-pieces, and their persistence paid off after Joey O'Brien whipped in a dangerous first time cross from the right wing that Lauren failed to flick clear.
Giannakopoulos was perfectly placed to pick up the stray ball within the box, and his chipped cross was met by Diagne-Faye who easily beat Fabregas in the air and headed his first goal for The Trotters.
It was no surprise that Bolton were making the most of their set-pieces against their flair-laden opponents, and Kevin Davies had Jens Lehmann stooping to collect five minutes later as he rose at the back post to meet Bruno N'Gotty's free kick.
Lehmann, booed by the Reebok support for his part in an early Davies booking, was doing his utmost to repel the aerial threat, and his Bolton counterpart also did well to dive and clear Lauren's threatening low cross as Arsenal looked for an early equaliser.
However, it was The Trotters who capped a fine first half as they exploited some disastrous defending by Brazilian midfielder Gilberto.
The Gunners man lost the ball after being cornered by Davies in his own half, and the Bolton striker quickly squared for Giannakopoulos who converted with style as he turned the ball past Lehmann.
Shell-shocked Arsenal looked to their captain for inspiration and Henry so nearly delivered with his typical imaginative touch as he teed up a shot on the edge of the box and saw his volley rebound off the post.
It was only a temporary flurry, however, as Lehmann had to be at full stretch to turn away Diagne-Faye's back-post cross-cum-shot, and the German keeper continued to impress when he got a despairing glove to Kevin Nolan's perfectly executed volley, as the excellence of the stop matched that of the shot.
Henry was having a frustrating afternoon after seeing a badly directed free kick end up in Jaaskelainen's hands, and the flamboyant Frenchman was also penalised for a foul that led to van Persie's neat finish being disallowed.
Gilberto headed over from van Persie's cross as he attempted to make up for his earlier error, but the first half concluded with a buoyant Bolton in the ascendancy.
Arsenal started the second period with renewed purpose and must have been clueless as to how they were prevented from reducing the deficit when Henry cut inside Nolan and struck a fierce shot that again struck the woodwork.
Bouncing back and rebounding off the diving Jaaskelainen, it looked certain that Robert Pires would sweep in from close range, but somehow the Trotters shot-stopper recovered and prevented the easy tap-in.
The Gunners were nearly undone again at the other end as chaos reigned in the box, but the ball would not fall neatly for Nolan, and the flow of the game was marred by a succession of fouls from both sides.
Diagne-Faye had received a yellow card, and Arsenal felt rightly aggrieved that the goalscorer was not given his marching orders soon after as he produced a Maradona-esque handball when leaping to challenge Lehmann after Gary Speed had his effort blocked by Pascal Cygan.
The Gunners were furious and Wenger introduced Dennis Bergkamp to infuse some guile into their attacking play, and the Dutch master saw an incisive cross cleared with no team-mates anywhere near.
Bolton were successfully nullifying the Arsenal threat as Kolo Toure's snap-shot volley flew wide, and Trotters substitute Ricardo Vaz Te saw his effort gathered by Lehmann at the other end.
Henry's frustration was clearly evident in the dying minutes as the Arsenal captain suffered from a loose pass from Robert Pires, but Bolton were bouncing after a well deserved victory that drew them level with their illustrious opponents.
Bolton v Arsenal player ratings.
|Bolton Wanderers||Team Name||Arsenal|
|7||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||2|
|1||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||3|
|16||Total Fouls Conceded||15|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||8||13|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||8||9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||8||4|