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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Match report: Bolton overcome Villa in vital relegation encounter

Owen Coyle’s men secured a hard-earned win to boost their survival hopes tonight.

Stephen Warnock shows his frustration.
Stephen Warnock shows his frustration.

BOLTON TOOK A giant step towards maintaining their Premier League status with a 2-1 win against a spirited Aston Villa side at Villa Park.

Manager Alex McLeish will regret his side’s failure to capitalise on their first-half dominance after Emile Heskey and Stephen Warnock spurned chances to take the lead.

Warnock did eventually put Villa ahead, after fantastic work from Charles N’Zogbia. But the goal sparked a Bolton extravaganza, with Martin Petrov hammering a penalty past Shay Given and David Ngog hitting a priceless winner barely a minute later.

Villa made an electric start to the match, with Chris Herd heading just over the bar from a fifth-minute early corner, followed by Heskey blazing high and wide after a poor Bolton clearance.

But the big English striker soon began to find his feet and provide some spectacular link-up play with young hotshot Andreas Weimann, with the 20-year-old unable to reach a Heskey flick-on before Adam Bogdan.

And the England international continued to impress, firing on the turn straight at Bogdan and swivelling on the edge of the box to fire a low powerful shot gratefully into the goalkeeper’s arms.

As Bolton started to work their way into the game with some neat passing play involving Chris Eagles and Mark Davies, standing ovations broke out for Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba following his recovery from a cardiac arrest, and then for Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov, who is battling acute leukaemia.

But Villa soon found their feet again, with Heskey again at the centre of everything, glancing a header narrowly over following neat footwork down the left from N’Zogbia.

McLeish’s side narrowly missed out on taking the lead, after a cutback from Scotland international Alan Hutton led to Warnock smashing the crossbar from 25 yards out.

The half-time break seemed to invigorate Bolton, who quickly found their feet at the start of the second period, with Kevin Davies looping a header back across goal following an Eagles free kick, and Ngog was inches away from tapping home.

And former Burnley man Eagles continued to represent Bolton’s greatest creator, as the midfielder attempted an audacious 40-yard free kick, which Given had to do well to save.

Villa continued to look uncomfortable, with Eagles pulling all the strings in midfield and looking to play in N’Zogbia, but the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper was equal to it.

Shortly after, Villa took the lead against the run of play. N’Zogbia dribbled past his defender down the right and unleashed a low cross towards the on-rushing Warnock, who buried a powerful shot past Bogdan on 61 minutes.

Bolton’s response was instant. Carlos Cuellar was adjudged to have brought down Mark Davies in the box and Petrov stepped up to smash the resulting penalty past Shay Given.

And if their goal did not come quickly enough, Bolton took the lead straight afterwards. Eagles ghosted into the penalty area, and showed incredible composure to pick out the open Ngog, who could not miss and the Frenchman tapped home .

A stunned Villa fought their way back into the game, enjoying some more possession high up the pitch, with Cuellar inexplicably choosing to head the ball goalwards from 15 yards when the Spaniard had the time to pick a volley.

And Bolton started to feel the pressure of a Villa comeback, as N’Zogbia led the charge with some mazy dribbles on each flank, following a succession of dangerous corners.

The Villa supporters erupted when they felt their team should have been awarded a penalty kick, after Weimann played the ball onto a Bolton arm but referee Chris Foy quickly moved to quash any claims.

And the Villa fans’ anxiety was not rewarded by late Barry Bannan efforts as the final whistle blew to represent a very spirited second-half performance from Owen Coyle’s side.

The result leaves Bolton only three points behind Villa on the Premier League table, but with a game in hand.

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