Bolton Wanderers (0) 1 - 3 (1) Arsenal (aet(|
Reebok Stadium, Wednesday 14th February 2007
FA Cup 4th round replay
(following 1-1 draw in first match)
Djourou (Hoyte 92) Toure Gilberto Clichy
Hleb (Freddie 77) Diaby Denilson Rosicky (Aliadiere 90)
A thrilling and tortuous night at the Reebok, when perhaps Arsenal
finally lifted the Bolton jinx. And they did it by picking a
team of inexperienced players and players returning from injury,
worthy of a League Cup tie.
As well as those injured as described in our
preview, Cesc Fabregas and Jens Lehmann were rested. The former
probably because of a knee knock picked up win
over Wigan on Sunday, the latter because the domestic cups are
the province of Manuel Almunia.
In addition, Wenger sportingly balanced out Bolton's loss to injury
of arguably their most dangerous player (given the way they play)
Kevin Davies, by leaving out Thierry Henry. Captain for the night
Gilberto dropped to centreback, with Johan Djourou switching to
right back presumably to give Justin Hoyte a rest (though he did
come on for extra time). With Cesc and Mathieu Flamini out this
left Abou Diaby and Denilson as a very inexperienced central
midfield pairing. They were quite superb.
Perhaps inexperience was the key. These players didn't look to have the
fear that those who've been in these games so many times before
often appear to take into games against Sam Allardyce's team.
The first half was simply awesome. As Arsene Wenger says, at
times it was total football. Not only were we playing fast one
or two touch stuff all over the pitch, playing passes that had
to be incredibly precise due to Bolton's flooding of their half
and quick pressing, but we were beating them in the battle too.
When Arsenal didn't have the ball they attacked like demons, closing
down to win it back almost immediately and coming up with by far
the majority of loose balls too.
Bolton started brightly though. They pressed us from our kick-off
and Djourou gave the ball away playing the ball out from the
right of defence. A couple of nice touches from the home team later,
Nolan was bringing the ball into the box under pressure from Djourou.
But he did an air shot and fell over, only half appealing for a
penalty which the ref rightly had no interest in. They continued to
attack but we defender well. Tomas Rosicky nearly put Emmanuel Adebayor
through on the break but hit the pass to strong.
The pattern described above soon established itself. One amazing
passing move took the ball all over the pitch then up the right with
Rosicky who played a one-two with Adebayor taking the Czech into
the box but his teammates return ball was too strong and
Jaaskelainen came out to grab it.
Another nice move finished with Rosicky jinking past Nolan into
space made by a couple of excellent runs from the two strikers and
hitting a 20 yard shot which swung out a yard past the last post.
The first goal came after 13 minutes. It started with a hoof from
Jaaskelainen which landed halfway into our half where Diaby and Gilberto
battled to win it. It went forward to Hleb on the right touchline near
the halfway line who held off a couple of Bolton players to move up the
line, then played a one-two with Denilson,
taking the Belarussian maestro 10 yards further up the touchline where he again
had 2 defenders
on him. But he did a neat 2-footed trick to nutmeg one of them and
play it infield. It came to Denilson who'd continued forward and
he came up with a trick that
made Hleb's look pedestrian, as the ball came to him he flicked it
with both feet in rapid succession, playing it forward through another
defender's legs to Adebayor. He then played it back to Denilson who
fed it further to the left to Rosicky, in a central position now. He
tried to poke the ball further left into space on that side of the
box where Julio Baptista was lurking, but a defender managed to
stretch and intercept. Adebayor had made a run round the back of Rosicky
and was well placed to charge onto the loose ball and hit a
shot low towards the left post. It hit Stelios but it only helped
the ball in - the defledtion didn't alter the path but sent the ball
down into the ground so that when it got to the goal it was bouncing
up at Jaaskelainen and he dived under it.
Bolton tried to get back straight away but we were defending
superbly. There would appear to be no worries about using
Gilberto as a stand-in centre back. Bolton were struggling to
get numbers forward though and as expected the biggest threat
came from long throws and corners.
Half way through the half Baptista brought the ball forward in
space but tried to find Adebayor to his left, where there were too
many defenders. I guess he hadn't seen Hleb's run in loads of
space on the other side.
Baptista and Gilberto had other chances in the first half, a low
shot and a far post header respectively. And Baptista hit a
25 yard free kick which was deflected off the wall but dipped towards
goal forcing Jaaskelainen to tip it over.
Adebayor got put through once
and given offside which looked a very dodgy decision. But the main excitement
of the half came just before halftime, at the other end of the
A long throw by Campo from their right was cleared to Andranik whose
shot hit Stelios on the edge of the 6 yard box. He reacted
brilliantly, turning to crash a shot against the underside of the bar.
The ball popped out to Meite who thumped it towards goal only to
see Gilberto get his body in the way to make a goal-saving block.
The next few of minutes were frantic end-to-end stuff with a
dangerous break at either end.
We were doing superbly but you knew it couldn't last for another
45 minutes. One nil up, away from home, and still Wenger was
pacing up and down in front of his dug-out with a face like a nervous dog.
Right at the start of the second half a Ben Haim free kick
from the centre circle was lofted into the box and Diaby got a touch
taking it goalwards. Almunia was forced to dive low to his right
to keep the
ball out, pushing it to the right then tumbling (fortunately) into
Diouf. Hleb was able to get onto the loose ball and clear. Bolton
were getting more of the ball now, and attacking with greater
frequency and threat, though we continued to defend well.
should have done better on 50 minutes after an Arsenal-like quick move forward
(after Campo had won the ball back) came to him inside the box
on their left with only Almunia to beat. But he delayed, allowing Almunia
really close to him so that when Stelios tried to
go round him the keeper was able to fall on the ball. There was another
white shirt in space on the far side of the box too so either an
early shot or a square ball might well have produced the equaliser.
Ben Haim fouled Hleb outside the box and was lucky not to get shown
the first yellow card of the game. Baptista hit the free kick
round the wall but straight into Jaaskelainen's arms.
Bolton's better use of the ball was pushing us back a bit. When
Arsenal did break it was quicker and in fewer numbers. Or maybe
that's what was allowing Bolton more play. On 58 Baptista put
Diaby through on the left of the box but he got it all wrong,
touching the ball on and easy for the outrushing Jaaskelainen to
take when an early shot or drag-back might have paid dividends.
Straight up the other end and Anelka had a
very long range shot which started a yard wide and drifted out to 6 or so.
A scramble in the box with some good play from Diouf led to the ball
coming to Campo in space on the left of the box, he hit a shot into
the side-netting and although it was going wide anyway he was unlucky
to concede a goal kick given that Almunia had got a touch.
Then on 62 Baptista jinked his way into the box and cut inside
Ben Haim who stuck out a leg and tripped him up for a cast iron
penalty (although one camera angle suggested he got a touch on
the ball, others showed clear air between ball and boot). Gilberto
stepped up and blasted it over the bar.
Toure tried one of his super-long range free kicks but it trundled
wide. A bit daft really, his return on these isn't very good.
Finally Ben Haim picked up the first booking, for a nothingy
tackle on Hleb but after he'd gotten away with quite a few. Big Sam
was unhappy about it because he thought that Hleb had fouled
Campo just before, sliding tackle which won the ball but could
have looked quite reckless from the Bolton boss's angle. He responded
by bringing on Vaz Te for Stelios. It made sense to bring the
nippy Portuguese striker on but I was puzzled at bringing off
Stelios. Nice to see him go though.
Then we brought on Freddie
for Hleb, the latter had been doing fine but I guess it was
always the intention to share the game between the two who
were returning from injury.
On 80 minutes Djourou got his head to a dangerous cross from their right.
Almunia punched the Bolton corner clear an we broke quickly, a
ball from Hleb finding Toure on the right wing and his
whipped-in diangonal cross finding Baptista just outside the box.
He made space for a near post shot but it deflected off a
defender's foot and a foot wide of that post.
There was a bit more long throw and cross panic in our box, then
Campo got shown a yellow card for an outrageous dive in there,
sticking out his leg really obviously to drag it past
Rosicky's as he fell over.
Bolton made a double substitution, bringing on Tal and Pedersen
for Gardner and Andranik. More scrambles in our box then on 85
Adebayor broke free, got round the keeper taking the ball wide
to the left, then hit his shot onto the near post. Not the easiest
chance given how wide he'd bene taken, but a defeinite miss.
More scrambles. Vaz Te went down in our box under challenge
but nothing was given. The board went up showing 3 minutes of
added time. A cross from their left by Pedersen was heade goalwards
an Almunia had to jump to tip it over the bar. The corner from their
left was flighted to the far side where Campo had a lot of space
thanks partly to the presence of Jaaskelaninen who I thought had
fouled Kolo by clattering into him near the penalty spot. Campo
headed it down and the ball went in off the foot of Kolo's
international teammate Meite. There wasn't time for any
more chances and, ever so painfully, the game went into
Extra time started with Jeremie Aliadiere on for Rosicky, and
Hoyte replaced Djourou soon after the restart. Incidentally, I
was puzzled to see Bolton kick off given that we'd started the game.
Doesn't it alternate? Or do they toss up again? Adebayor looked
The home side started extra time in the ascendancy, as they'd
finished the 90 minutes. But we started to play keep-ball better
again, with both Freddie and Alialiadiere playing full parts.
Anelka went down hopefully in our box. Then 6 minutes in a cross
from their right was touched on by Nolan and again the woodwork
came to our rescue, the ball hitting Almunia's right hand
post and rebounding to safety (Djourou hacking it out of the
box with an overhead kick).
Clichy gave away a silly free kick
trying to get out of defence past Anelka, cutting goalside of
him and having to foul to prevent the former Gunner getting
away with the ball in that direction. But the free kick was
swung straight into Almunia's arms.
A minute before the break Baptista was put in on the right
of the box but seemed to get caught between a cross and a shot,
and the ball went through the box and out for a goal kick.
Bolton were moaning a lot and maybe starting to feel the exertion
more than our spry young things. Then 3 minutes into the last
15, up stepped Freddie for his first goal since the Champs League
qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb back in August, and his best for a
good while. We broke from deep on the left wing through Clichy who
won the ball then played it up the line for Aliadiere. He raced up
the wing and cut infield before slotting the ball forward for Freddie. Running
into the box on the left, he had a defender in clsoe attention but
controlled it forward with his right foot then quickly whipped
a shot in with his left, sending the ball in front of the defender and across
the keeper, just inside his far post. An awesome finish and perhaps
more the sort of goal you expect to see from Henry than Freddie.
A corner dropped to Anelka just inside the box who controlled and
vollyed goalward but too high. Bolton were trying to get forward
but we restricted them by keeping the ball well when we had it.
5 minutes to go and Ben Haim got his second yellow, a bit unlucky
this one as Baptista had pushed the ball past then run at the defender.
A few minutes to go against 10 men, scripted for Bolton perhaps but
the strength and pace was with Arsenal.
Jaaskelainen came up for a corner but we broke from it and
Adebayor charged upfield and into their box, where
Anelka just managed to catch up with him and bring him down
from behind. Anelka was booked but, bizarrely, not sent off for
what must be one of the clearest denials of a goal-scoring opportunity ever. There wasn't another defender there. There wasn't even a goalkeeper!
This time another Brazilian stepped up, only to
repeat Gilberto's error from before, hoofing the penalty eveb
further over the bar.
Scriptd for Bolton? Nah. Right at the death
we broke forward, the third dangerous break in quick succession but
this time their outfield players were all fully committed. Clichy
started it, again finding Aliadiere further up the left wing. Again
he came forrward and infield, this time hitting an earlier ball forward
and central where Jaaskelainen found himself alone near the edge of his box
facing Adebayor and Baptista.
The latter slipped the ball sideways to allow his partner the
easier finish and that was it, 3-1.
A breathtaking match and a wonderful result for Valentine's day. We love you, Freddie.