Premier League - Bolton give Spurs reality check
Sat, 06 Nov 14:42:00 2010
Bolton Wanderers brought Tottenham back down to earth with an entertaining 4-2 Premier League win at the Reebok Stadium.
Two goals from Kevin Davies and one from Gretar Steinsson gave Owen Coyle's side a commanding lead, but superb strikes from Alan Hutton and Roman Pavlyuchenko raised hopes of an amazing comeback, before Martin Petrov settled it deep in stoppage time.
Tottenham's 3-1 Champions League win against Internazionale, and particularly the stunning performance of Gareth Bale, have been the talk of Europe.
But this was a jolting dose of reality for Harry Redknapp's side, whose started the day in the somewhat flattering position of fifth - 10 points off the top but just six above the relegation zone.
For all the understandable clamour around Bale, Rafael van der Vaart has been arguably more influential this season, and the Dutchman was sorely missed as he sat out with a hamstring strain.
His replacement Niko Kranjcar wielded little influence, while the absence of Aaron Lennon, also with a hamstring injury, meant youngster Sandro came into a five-man midfield.
The Brazilian operated in a deep-lying role, but his failure to use the ball quickly enough resulted directly in the opening goal.
On 31 minutes, Fabrice Muamba caught Sandro in possession well inside the Spurs half, Johan Elmander found Davies, and the England striker finished smartly with his left foot from the edge of the box.
Tottenham had a legitimate offside claim denied, but that could not disguise the sloppiness of Sandro's play.
Matthew Taylor, preferred to Martin Petrov, had already passed up two good chances to give Bolton the lead - he fired over from 20 yards in the first minute, then failed to hit the target with a right-foot volley. Taylor later hit the woodwork with another volley.
Predictably, Bale and Luka Modric provided the visitors' main threat, almost exclusively from the left. Bolton did their best to double-cover the Welshman whenever possible, but still allowed him space to deliver some dangerous crosses. He also hit the outside of the post with a fine free-kick.
Bale managed three goals and two assists in 180 minutes against Inter, but has now gone nine Premier League goals without registering a goal or an assist.
Crouch found himself outnumbered and outwitted by Gary Cahill and Zat Knight, who dealt superbly with crosses in the Bolton area, and it was no surprise to see Pavlyuchenko come on at half-time.
However, the withdrawal of Wilson Palacios allowed Bolton to overrun their visitors in midfield.
Johan Elmander and Gary Cahill had both gone close before Steinsson extended the lead, taking a Lee Chung-Yong lay-off and firing superbly into the left corner.
And it looked like game over on 76 minutes when Benoit Assou-Ekotto brought Lee down inside the box and Davies converted the penalty.
But Hutton pulled one back almost immediately with a passable Bale impression, dribbling inside from the right and picking out the top-left corner with a left-foot curler.
Then Pavyluchenko got nerves jangling on 87 minutes when he lashed a fantastic left-foot volley past Jaaskelainen from a tight angle.
There was no fairytale comeback, however, and as Spurs committed players forward in stoppage time, Davies released Petrov on the break and the Bulgarian finished coolly past Gomes.Alex Chick / Eurosport