Anelka shoots down Gunners
By Lewis Rutledge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Nicolas Anelka scored twice against his former club as Bolton stunned Arsenal 3-1.
Nicolas Anelka scored twice as Bolton moved up to third in The Premiership with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
The Gunners dominated large chunks of the second half and hit the woodwork three times, but Bolton were the stronger team in the opening 45 minutes and were ultimately indebted to the class of Anelka.
Bolton have become something of a bogey team for Arsenal in recent seasons, with their physical approach making them one of Arsene Wenger's least favourite opponents.
In the cauldron of The Reebok Stadium it was perhaps therefore surprising to see Theo Walcott drafted in to replace Thierry Henry, but the teenager was quickly into the action and created a glorious chance for Emmanuel Adebayor in just the third minute with a good run and cross.
The Togo international fired straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen though, and The Gunners were made to rue the missed opportunity as Bolton took the lead after nine minutes.
The simplicity of the goal served to highlight Arsenal's fallibility at set pieces, as Abdoulaye Faye crept into the near post to head home El Hadji Diouf's corner.
Arsenal's players were visibly rattled as Bolton continued to outmuscle them in midfield, and complained to the referee on numerous occasions as the challenges flew in.
For the most part Arsenal were just second best and had no right to protest, but they were entitled to feel angry when Kevin Davies escaped with a yellow card for shoving Emmanuel Eboue to the floor after the right back had confronted him about a foul.
Bolton continued to unsettle Arsenal as the game descended into an ugly battle for much of the first half, but they paid the price for their own aggression as both Nicky Hunt and Quinton Fortune sustained injuries.
There was little sign of where the next goal would come from, until Anelka stunned his former club with his first Premiership goal for Bolton in first half injury time.
The goal was almost worth the three-month wait for Totters fans, as he stepped inside from the left after being picked out by a long crossfield pass from Davies, and then unleashed an unstoppable, swerving shot past Jens Lehmann and into top right corner.
However, Bolton switched off at the back moments later and saw their lead cut to one before the half time whistle could go, as Gilberto rose unchallenged in the box to head in Cesc Fabregas' corner.
Freddie Ljungberg then tested Jaaskelainen with a shot from close range, while Fabregas forced another good save out of the Bolton keeper as Arsenal looked to maintain their momentum at the start of the second half.
For the first time in the match the Londoners found their passing rhythm, and Bolton were pegged back virtually inside their own area.
Walcott skipped down the right wing and crossed cleverly to Freddie Ljungberg, but the Swede was denied by the woodwork as his header ricocheted off the crossbar to safety.
Bolton clung on admirably and restricted Arsenal's chances, while Ivan Campo even managed to break forward far enough to see a penalty appeal waved away as he went down under pressure from Gael Clichy.
Campo looked less assured in his defensive duties, and Adebayor bamboozled him with a clever turn before poking a tame shot straight at Jaaskelainen.
Against the run of play Bolton almost made it 3-1, but Lehmann kept his side in the game with a superb double save. The German leapt to his left to parry after a long free kick was inadvertently flicked on by Eboue, and then pushed the ball onto the bar as Anelka seized on the rebound.
There was nothing Lehmann could do to deny Anelka after 76 minutes though, as the striker was released by a through ball from Campo and slotted his shot into the bottom left corner with aplomb.
Arsenal kept pressing in the final 15 minutes and both Adebayor and Fabregas rattled the post with ferocious drives from the edge of the area, but there was a sense of deflation in the air for The Gunners as the final whistle blew.
Wenger's side now have only the faintest of chances of winning The Premiership, but Bolton may now march on with realistic dreams of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League this season.
Click here for Bolton v Arsenal player ratings
|Bolton Wanderers||Team Name||Arsenal|
|5||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||5|
|2||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||7|
|11||Total Fouls Conceded||8|