It took less than 30 seconds for Bolton to commit the first foul thanks to Meite and the timewasting started at the same time when Nolan kicked the ball back to his keeper. Styles had words. Fat Sam's tactics where quite clearly to wind us up and get everyone behind the ball whenever we got it, that and their usual ploy of taking runners out off the ball. Diouf blasted one over from a half clearance before Cesc, who looked really up for it today, made a great tackle on the Senegalese diver. We all looked up for it but didn't quite fire on all cylinders in the early stages. A foul by Davies on Cesc allowed him to hit a good ball in.
Following a half-cleared shot Anelka slotted home Bolton's opening goal. As usual we had been on top at the time, as usual it had a soft element about it and as usual it came about because we failed to deal with a header. 0-1 Bolton and we all knew we were going to be in for a long hard afternoon. But it has to be said though that we didn't crumble, we didn't falter and even Hleb was challenging in the air. As usual however the problem was that you couldn't quite see where the goals were going to come from.
Freddie, bless him was making runs and battling, but he's lost a little edge of pace and hasn't got Bergkamp to feed him the real killer balls. Mind you even Bergkamp at his peak would struggle to find space when Bolton pull all their players back to defend. Rosicky with a fine dipping volley that gave us a glimmer of hope. Adebayor with a chance provided by Freddie. Freddie fouled near the edge of the box and a Freddie shot deflected for a goal kick. Quite! Rob Styles missed this and a number of off the ball fouls but overall he was pretty good game and more importantly didn't take too much crap from Bolton. I've just read that last bit again and have to say if I, of all people, thought Styles was ok then he was probably brilliant.
Arsenal took a quick free kick despite Bolton standing over the ball and Cesc fired in a decent cross. Gallas made a crucial header in defence. Hleb cut in from the left but shot wide. Good play by Adebayor enabled Eboue's cross to almost find Freddie. Diouf hacked down Eboue but wasn't carded. Kolo had a rocket of a shot deflected as Bolton continued to waste time. Rosicky with a bending shot well saved. Adebayor hit in a pretty decent cross, which Rosicky managed to get to first. Hunt was not expecting the run and certainly never figured Tomas could get there first, Rosicky didn't quite control it but beat his man with the touch which gave him room to stab home with only Jaaskelainen to beat. 1-1. Game on.
Bolton might have gone ahead again via Anelka whose chip beat Lehmann but was wide. Gilberto taken out off the ball. Cesc to Freddie with another of those almost but not quite toe-poke tap-ins if he'd got a touch. Good run by Tomas. A yellow for Faye who went clattering into the back of Freddie. Speed on Rosicky and another free kick as we began to rattle Fat Sam's cage. Kolo with a shot saved. One-twos involving Rosicky and a free kick as Davies shoved Toure yet again. Hleb to Fabregas to Adebayor, who's first touch let him down on this occasion when just about through on goal. Adebayor was flattened but again no sniff of a yellow card. Adebayor to Eboue with another nearly but not quite cross to Freddie. Good chasing and closing down by Adebayor as we ended the half in control but hadn't clinched the very vital second goal.
Quite a few Gooners hadn't taken up their seats when a run by Cesc caught Bolton's defenders all over the place. Cesc appeared to take too long but the replays showed he knew exactly what he was doing as he slotted home for a 2-1 lead within a minute of the restart. Ashburton erupted, the confidence was back and the team's tails were decidedly up. So much so that it's fair to say we bossed pretty well all of the second half. Fabregas to Freddie, almost. Great move down our left and a very near thing for Bolton as Hleb's shot went just the wrong side of the post.
Gallas carded for axing Anelka, well worth a yellow on the enjoyment factor alone. Hleb annoyingly caught offside in a three against two man break, a good opportunity squandered. Freddie foiled with a last ditch tackle. Jaaskelainen hoofed into touch. Speed hacked down Gilberto. Adebayor won a corner. Cesc with a fine solo but his shot was blocked, he seemed to be running on full today and bossed midfield. Gardner replaced by Teymourian 'Who' as Compo moved to left back. Quite why we didn't bomb past him I've no idea, he clearly is slower than a garden snail. A hoof in from Bolton sailed over the bar to jeers all around. They had no answers and clearly didn't have another gear to engage. A wild miss hit by Hleb with his left foot. Nolan fouled Gallas in our box.
Diaby on to replace Freddie. Gallas cleared from Anelka. Diouf went off to a stadium full of boos, and was replaced by Vaz Te. Great tackle by Clichy who hadn't ventured forward quite as much today. Bolton won a corner and it found Compo in acres of space but he hit a poor shot wide, to much derision. A Hleb cross won another corner, which was no reason to get excited if you've watched Arsenal wasting corners all season. Hleb was taken out by Compo and got a yellow card for his trouble. The ref appeared to indicate that it was for a count-back of misdemeanours. Another decent cross by Adebayor saw Diaby fling himself at the header but it was the wrong side of the post. Seriously close though.
Hunt was skinned by Rosicky, chopped him down from behind and was carded. A Lehmann scramble, Cesc flattened and Eboue swung a peg to slice it over his own bar. Cesc required treatment and went off for a while. Jens failed to get a clean punch to the corner and we rocked for the first time in the half. Nolan was replaced by Thompson who I don't recall getting a touch. Anelka caught offside, now there's a novelty. Baptista on to replace Hleb. Compo on Rosicky again for a nasty looking foul that cost him a second yellow card and the subsequent red. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.
Baptista to Diaby with a shot wide. Adebayor almost through. Arsenal broke again and bizarrely Diaby and Baptista, both of whom were clear, were shoving one another off the ball. Naturally Diaby had the strongest shove but was unable to beat the keeper with his one on one chance. No quite what he needed to steady himself before shooting, but another clear chance missed.
Another three-man Arsenal break and the crowd was announced as 60,101. And there were very few empty seats today I felt as everyone, certainly in the East stand enjoyed the opportunity to sunbathe. Tackles were flying late on and a Bolton free kick saw everyone bar their keeper at the other end of the immaculate pitch. Nolan on Lehmann for a free kick which Jens's spun out by pouring water on a perceived injury. Styles carded him from 50 plus yards away although how he could be sure that Lehmann wasn't actually injured beggars belief. Three minutes added time and one more chance when a poor ball by Baptista spoilt a great run by Diaby.
So 2-1 to the Arsenal. Up yours Fat Sam!
Got to mention the pitch again, it looked absolutely beautiful. Quite an amazing achievement given the limited time available to build a pitch from scratch. Many congratualtions to all concerned and also to today's team for a rugged match winning performance. Not often you can claim that we wanted it more than Bolton is it?