Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Arsenal (March 2008)

Goalscorers: Matt Taylor 14, 43, William Gallas 62, Robin van Persie 68, Jlloyd Samuel 90 OG

Teams:

Bolton Wanderers: Ali Al-Habsi, Jlloyd Samuel, Gary Cahill, Andy O’Brien, Gretar Steinsson, Ivan Campo, Danny Guthrie, Gavin McCann, Matthew Taylor (Nicky Hunt 78), (Grzegorz Rasiak 81), El-Hadji Diouf (Stelios Giannakopoulos 78), Kevin Davies

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Philippe Senderos (Theo Walcott 59), Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby (SENT OFF), Cesc Fabregas, Aleksandar Hleb, Nicklas Bendtner (Emmanuel Adebayor 60), Robin van Persie (Justin Hoyte 90)

Referee: Chris Foy, Attendance: 22,431

Arsenal visited the Reebok Stadium in March 2008 knowing they desperately needed to win to keep alive their title hopes. Having set the pace for the majority of the season, the Gunners had slipped to third in the standings and were without a win in five matches. This included a defeat to Chelsea the previous weekend.

The Gunners’ record at the Reebok was shambolic too. They hadn’t won here since April 2002 and after a nightmare opening 45 minutes in the driving rain, that run looked set to continue. 14 minutes had been played when Bolton took an unlikely lead. Gretar Steinsson produced a wonderful cross and Matt Taylor’s well-executed header flew into the back of the net. Steinsson was exposing Arsenal’s weakness at right-back. Kolo Toure had to play out of position due to an injury to regular full-back Bacary Sagna. His lack of experience in this position was clearly evident.

Arsene Wegner’s side were a goal down and soon a man down too. On 30 minutes, Abou Diaby was dismissed following a poor tackle on Steinsson. Chris Foy had no hesitation in showing the red card and replays proved he had made the right decision. Wenger was left shaking his head and the damage wasn’t over yet.

Two minutes before half-time, Mathieu Flamini was pressured into losing possession on the edge of his own penalty area. The ball dropped to Taylor and his shot deflected off captain William Gallas, leaving Manuel Almunia with no chance. Bolton led 2-0 at the break and looked to be heading towards a vital victory in their battle to preserve their Premier League status.

On the hour mark, Wenger knew he had to change things and threw his last remaining attacking substitutions on. Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor arrived. Within two minutes, Bolton’s advantage had been halved. Cesc Fabregas’ corner was inadvertently flicked on at the near post by Trotters’ skipper Ivan Campo. Steinsson failed to track the run of Gallas, who couldn’t miss from only a few yards out. All of a sudden, nerves were around the Reebok Stadium with both sets of supporters.

Six minutes later, the scores were improbably level. Gary Cahill overstretched and tripped Aleksandar Hleb in the box. Robin van Persie kept his composure to send Ali Al-Habsi the wrong way and score his first Premier League goal in five months. There always looked like being a winner in this game and it came in the 90th minute. Once again, Hleb got to the touchline and pulled the ball back to Fabregas. His shot took a crazy three deflections off Campo, Andy O’Brien and lastly, Jlloyd Samuel before nestling into the back of the net. Cue euphoria in the Arsenal away supporters’ end.

This was the best comeback victory of the 2007-2008 Premier League season and although Arsenal fell short in their bid to win the title, they fell just four points short of champions Manchester United.

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