Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review : Bolton 1 - 3 Arsenal The Great

Arsenal went top of the Premier League after coming from behind to beat bogey side Bolton 3-1 at the Reebok Stadium.

Kevin Davies headed the hosts ahead on 14 minutes before Emmanuel Eboue and Nicklas Bendtner netted in quick succession to hand the lead to Arsenal before half-time.

Theo Walcott, on as a substitute, created a third late on for Brazilian midfielder Denilson who secured all three points for Arsenal to make it four wins out of five so far this season.

Arsene Wenger's side will now stay top of the table overnight with Chelsea not taking on Manchester United until Sunday.

Bolton had won four of their previous five encounters with the Gunners at the Reebok and the match appeared to be following that rather well-worn script when Kevin Nolan forced a good save out of Manuel Almunia with a dipping 25-yarder early on.

That feeling continued when Davies opened the scoring on 14 minutes, the flat-track bully - so often a thorn in Arsenal's side - netting a simply executed goal by rising above Kolo Toure and heading Joey O'Brien's corner past Almunia.

But that was about as far as the story followed the script, as Arsenal immediately asserted themselves on the game and gained the upper hand during a thrilling 10-minute period of play which culminated with two goals in a minute.

Eboue registered his first goal in an Arsenal shirt when he slotted home from close range on 26 minutes. Replays showed the Ivorian was in an offside position when Bendtner's cute pass found him, but the linesman's flag stayed down and the goal stood.

And then just a minute later Arsenal took the lead, this time Bendtner sliding in to finish from Denilson's centre from the left.

Perhaps Bolton had not been prepared for the ferocity of the fight-back, but there was no doubting that it had been coming. The woodwork had twice been struck in the immediate lead-up to the goals, Adebayor hitting the base of an upright when put through on goal moments before the post denied Alexandre Song a header from a corner.

Bolton were simply blown away by Arsenal's fluent passing game but Gary Megson's side are a tough proposition, especially on their home turf, and they managed to carve out a couple of chances before half-time.

On both occasions, it was Nolan who went close to restoring parity, but the Bolton skipper was first denied by an excellent Almunia save before seeing a sidefooted volley bounce the wrong side of the post.

Bolton's frustration was borne out as the first half neared its conclusion, Davies lunging in on Gael Clichy with a shocking tackle that resulted in the Frenchman heading to hospital for a check-up and the Bolton striker picking up a yellow card. It could easily have been red.

Fortunately Arsenal confirmed later that Clichy only suffered minor injuries and was able to return to London with the rest of the squad.

Arsenal started the second half brightly, Song forcing Jussi Jaaskelainen into making a sharp save soon after the restart, but Bolton - backed by a constant wall of sound from what was a disappointingly small gate - began to come back into the game.

Mustapha Riga was introduced as a 56th minute substitute and summer signing from Levante nearly made a big impact soon after when Almunia had to be alert to tip his well-placed effort round the corner.

But Bolton's best chance of the game fell to full-back Gretar Steinsson, who was afforded a free header from a corner with seven minutes remaining. The Iceland international could only plant his header over the bar though.

Bolton were made to rue his profligacy as Walcott burst through the hosts' defence on 87 minutes before feeding Adebayor, who in turn centred for Denilson. The youngster had the easy task of sweeping home from close range to seal just the Gunners' second win in six attempts at the Reebok.

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