FA Cup 4th Round Replay: Bolton 1 – Arsenal 3

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
February 15th, 2007 • 5:20 pm

When it comes to Arsenal’s 2006–2007, there’s already one undeniable truth: It’s not a season for the faint of heart.

We’ve already had far more than our regular share of nail-biting moments. Last night provided a sizable serving of those to add to the already dangerously rich diet.

Mind you, it makes for pretty exciting and engaging entertainment.

Bolton were supposed to be Arsenal’s “bogey team” or its “nemesis,” but, in the absence of the injured Davies and Faye, there was little sign of this at the Reebok Stadium, especially during the first half, which was a near-perfect performance by the Gunners. Only near-perfect, of course, because they failed to turn their utter domination into more than a single-goal advantage.

Bolton nearly made them pay for it twice just before and after the interval, but then the rest of the second half was relatively well-controlled by the Gunners. When they won the first penalty, there were really good reasons to feel that the deal was done. But Gilberto stepped up and managed to completely miss his kick. It was the first of several highlights in a comedy of errors that lasted all the way to the end of the 120 minutes.

Adebayor himself was guilty of failing to convert a golden opportunity, although I felt that critics of his finish were a bit harsh. Yes, he had rounded the keeper and had a gaping goal to aim at, but it was still from a pretty tight angle and he’s a tall player who cannot twist and turn as easily as shorter players would. As it happens, he hit the post, and there was still a glimmer of hope for the Wanderers.

Deep into stoppage time, they finally managed to score a very scrappy goal, and all of a sudden the specter of the “nemesis” thing rose again—although, even if Arsenal had lost after this, Wenger could still have argued that his team’s performance had been far superior.

But Bolton didn’t manage to find a second goal during over time, and Wenger’s inspired substitutions did the trick. Aliadiere had an impressive run and Ljungberg provided a clinical finish that restored the Gunners’ advantage.

But the show was not quite over. Bolton started to play with desperation and take very foolish risks, and on a counter-attack, after the Bolton keeper had gone up, Adebayor was heading towards an empty goal when he was very clumsily hacked by Anelka.

The referee could very easily have produced a straight red card, but decided that the penalty and a yellow were enough punishment. Unfortunately, Baptista managed to miss his own spot kick, capping a truly unfortunate night for him.

And at the very end of the game, when he was running towards the Bolton keeper for yet another one-on-one, he still felt more comfortable passing the ball to Adebayor to make sure that it would finish in the back of the net for Arsenal’s third.

Baptista had a night to forget, but not his team, and most of the other Arsenal players were simply outstanding. (Touré had a bit of shaky night too, though, and this might be a sign of fatigue, which will have to be addressed by Wenger sooner rather than later.) Bolton’s manager Sam Allardyce and his players tried to find excuses, first blaming injuries—as if Arsenal hadn’t had to cope with their own list of casualties—and then the referee, who had a perfect night, except maybe for his excessive leniency towards Anelka.

But the truth is that this game put an emphatic end to a miserable series of below-par performances against Bolton, with a truly spectacular Arsenal performance—although, of course, a neater score line in the regular 90 minutes would have been easier on the nerves and on the physical condition of the players in anticipation of the Blackburn tie on Saturday.

To close this post, I refer you to a couple of truly funny blog posts by other Arsenal fans—especially if you are an Arsenal fan yourself, of course.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.