Bolton 2 Arsenal 2: Two priceless points thrown away
Report of match 26th April 2003
Reporter Brian Dawes
So a seriously big match for my first visit to the Reebok and I don't reckon we could have been playing Wanderers at a worse time. While our form has been erratic theirs seems to have been lifted of late by some fine football, not least of all from Okocha.
Jaaskelainen took cleanly from an early Henry corner and not long after Parlour beat Campo to see Henry put in a good cross that didn't quite find Wiltord. Frandsen gave D'Urso some severe verbal after an obvious foul in the back of Campbell. It was quite obvious from early on that this would be a battle and it has to be said that Pires didn't look overly keen on getting stuck in early doors, indeed I though he was unusually quiet before the break. Henry was fouled by Campo and tried one from extreme range but both his and Parlour's follow up shot were blocked. It's only when you get to see their length and accuracy that you realise how effective Okocha's long throws are. Also just how reliant Wanderers are on set plays, but it has to be said that all their set plays looked dangerous although Campbell and Cygan appeared to be containing them well and were ably supported by our full backs.
Following a couple of less than impressive kicks by Dave, Bolton came the nearest yet when a D'Urso block, of the ball, set up Pedersen with a shot that whistled just wide of Dave's far post. A good Arsenal move had Ash almost but not quite finding Thierry, we look so much more balanced with Cole back in place. All the while play went on there was a mangy yellow lion, seemingly their official mascot making gestures at Arsenal players and officials along the touchline. Quite why this was allowed is beyond me. D'Urso was failing to keep up with play and giving anything that they asked for, he awarded a number of free kicks against both teams that never were and failed to control some fierce tackling to boot. Campo dived to win one quite ridiculous free kick that Okocha struck well but fortunately just wide. A good break by Wiltord but he couldn't find the right ball for Henry, which was often the
Arsenal cleared and built with control while Mendy countered and did superbly down our left flank. Campbell headed clear before Okocha crossed and Mendy won a corner, shortly followed by another long throw from Jay Jay. Wiltord looked for Cole with another cross and we followed that with an unnecessary offside from Henry that was lazy. He made up for it with some great skills soon after. Djorkaeff also liked to hit the deck and did so rather obviously when confronted by Ray, still D'Urso was impressed but only because he had no idea what was going on. In the main we were soaking up pressure well but with Rob off the boil and the rest of our midfield spraying some loose passes we failed to set the Reebok alight. Gardner miscued a shot, which he sent seriously high.
Campo and Henry were down injured after Henry took a wack from the one with the Harpo Marx haircut. Then an extremely crude tackle on Henry saw his fellow countryman Laville earn a deserved yellow card. A good free kick from Rob must have almost grazed Sol's head in front of their goal, close but no cigar. The hapless D'Urso gave Henry a booking for Campo's next extravagant belly flop and appeared to indicate to Henry that it was for an accumulation of fouls. Excuse me you **** but all the previous fouls involving Henry were on him, not by him you prat! I've got a lot of time for Allardyce but how the feck he came to believe that the prat D' Urso favours Arsenal is beyond belief, D'Urso is worse than Poll.
Gilberto won a good ball in central midfield that saw Henry find Wiltord who won a corner. Fine play by both teams, especially from Seaman taking a high cross, plus clever stuff from Pedersen and then Ljungberg followed. Next Henry set Freddie on for a shot that was saved for a corner and Henry then had a shot from range that lacked power. The most inexplicable action of the match came in the centre circle when Gilberto was upended by Okocha who probably conceded more fouls than any other player on the pitch and the free kick was awarded to Bolton. D'Urso would be funny if he wasn't so serious. A free kick against Ray and a great take by Dave for a low cross saw the half end without a goal. Supporters of both sides had been vocal.
They have got a big screen at the Reebok but it wasn't visible from my seat at the back of the South Stand Upper, so no replays for me to view. No changes made at half time but the plan was obviously for Dennis to come on for the last twenty minutes. A poor ball from Pires and an unnecessary offside by Henry didn't inspire confidence. However a blinding line ball from Rob to Thierry down the left followed by a short sharp run and a perfect cross to Sylvain resulted in a tap in and a 0-1 lead within about two minutes of the restart. Great start to the second half, but Ray was down injured in the centre circle.
Bolton came back at us and we continued to concede free kicks. Oleg replaced Freddie and Lauren moved to right-side midfield. Campo hacked Gilberto from behind for an obvious yellow card. Cole did well down our left and fine pressure from Ray followed. Dave needed to be brave at his near post and was. Seaman punched clear; Gilberto headed the follow up clear. A Bolton player down so Cole kicks the ball out. I don't recall the physios being on the pitch as often all season. A possible push by Pascal on Frandsen not spotted. Okocha tripped Henry wide right but he's immune from yellow cards it seems. Cygan went down and Dave signalled the bench that it was terminal. So Cygan limped off behind the goal and Keown entered the fray.
Henry, Parlour, Cole and Pires combined in a good move but Pires was given offside. Parlour, Lauren, Henry, Campbell and Cole were all involved in some flowing stuff but Lauren was chopped and injured requiring more on pitch treatment. Mendy and Campo replaced by Andre and Nolan for Wanderers. Lauren was carried off to be replaced by Gio who went left midfield. From then on Oleg was exposed with no one to battle in front of him down our right flank. Oleg gave away a corner and Bolton hit the post before Djorkaeff followed up to maker it 1-2. Heavy tackles then got heavier and we didn't look our cool calm selves.
A Wiltord lob into their box saw Henry held by N'Gotty but it wasn't obvious enough for D'Urso. Brilliant save by Seaman. Seaman fouled by Bergsson. Bolton obviously had one set of instructions now which were to rattle us at every opportunity and hope that D' Urso continued to act ineptly. Oleg hoofed clear and Ray picked up a yellow card. Arsenal broke well after a terrific point blank save by Dave. Henry felled Okocha. Salva, or someone else, on for Pedersen. The free kick was fired in and a headed flick took it past Dave. Horror of horrors it was now 2-2 and we'd blow yet another lead. The announcer credited the goal to Martin.
Bolton have done well to climb away from the relegation zone, they've worked hard, played some good stuff, as they did today but they enjoy kicking people and rely almost totally on set plays as witnessed by their goals today. Fair play to them they deserved the draw because their work rate was great and their effort intense, but I could have done without Alladyce's whinging about the added time. Four goals, three or four lectures, six substitutions, seven or more visits to the pitch for real and serious injuries by the physios, two players carried off plus a number of bookings, a sending off, not to mention the time-wasting. Ferguson would have demanded twenty-five minutes minimum.
We have not defended leads well this season, so I don't understand why we try to do so. Pat Rice appeared to be calling upon players not to drop so deep, but perhaps a better answer would be to continue to attack with an attacking line-up, like Real Madrid do, and not worry about defence. Once we surrender the attacking initiative it often ends in tears. OK so the fat lady hasn't sung yet but she's making some really horrible noises in the wings right now and I've felt a lot better at the end of a hard-fought away draw than I do today.
|Competition: Barclaycard Premiership Kick Off: 12:30 Venue: Burnden Way Attendance: 27,253|
Keown 84 (og)
|2 - 2||Arsenal
|Sorry, there is no commentary available for this match|