Sun 17 Jan 10
at 18:29 PM
Report: Bolton 0 Arsenal 2
A goal in each half from Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida sealed a 2-0 win for Arsenal in Owen Coyle's first fixture in charge of Bolton Wanderers.
The Whites put up a valiant and brave effort against the title-chasing Gunners but came unstuck by two great finishes from their opponents.
Fabregas not only scored the first goal but also put in a man of the match performance and was arguably the only difference between the two sides.
Wanderers had opportunities of their own most notably through Ivan Klasnic at the end of the first half and Matt Taylor twice after the break.
But they could not find a way past Manuel Almunia, who like Fabregas, put in a flawless individual performance.
As anticipated, new manager Owen Coyle was greeted with a fantastic reception by the supporters, and that backing transferred immediately to the pitch.
On two occasions within the first couple of minutes, Chung-Yong Lee escaped down the right touchline, delivering testing crosses that Arsenal just about dealt with. And only the linesman's flag prevented Ivan Klasnic from giving Bolton an early lead as the Croatian hitman saw a 20 yard strike disallowed for offside.
Arsenal themselves looked lively in the opening exchanges. The returning Cesc Fabregas caused slight concern with an off-target drive, Zat Knight made a vital sliding clearance inside his own penalty area and Jussi Jaaskelainen raced off his line to thwart Eduardo.
The visitors felt hard done by on 12 minutes when a penalty shout for a foul on Fabregas was waved away by referee Phil Dowd. The Arsenal skipper had made a lung-bursting dart through midfield and having been picked out by Eduardo's cross, he took a tumble under a challenge from goalkeeper Jaaskelainen. Fabregas looked exasperated with Dowd's decision, as did the 4,000 supporters in the away end.
Cohen blazed over from the edge of the box and Klasnic saw an effort easily clutched as the game continued to flow at an entertaining pace.
Having already given Wanderers an early sight of his attacking prowess, Fabregas put Arsenal into the lead just a minute shy of the half-hour mark.
It was a typical Arsenal goal - an intricate piece of passing play rounded off with a superb low finish. Fabregas played a neat one-two with Eduardo before firing in a low shot across and out of the reach of Jaaskelainen from 12 yards out.
Eastmond's shot snuck through a forest of legs and was saved by Jaaskelainen moments after the opening goal, while Klasnic came close to levelling with an ambitious long-range volley that flew just a few yards wide.
Before the half was out there was still time for another Arsenal penalty shout to fall on deaf ears as Fabregas tumbled under a Knight challenge inside the box, and for Rosicky to escape with just a booking when he appeared to lash out at Klasnic.
And just as the fourth official announced two minutes of stoppage time to be played, Klasnic forced Almunia into a brilliant point-blank save having turned William Gallas with a sublime flick.
Bolton came out after the half-time interval in the ascendancy and as with the first half, twice Chung-Yong Lee found space to deliver testing crosses which Almunia dealt with on both occasions.
Indeed, it was all Bolton inside the opening ten minutes of the second half and everything they had to offer was down the right touchline. There was obvious concern from Arsene Wenger as eventually Gael Clichy was brought on to shore up the left side of midfield.
The Whites carved out their best opportunity of the game on the hour mark, but when the ball fell to Matt Taylor, the midfielder was unable to convert. Klasnic had done excellently to play in the wide-man but unfortunately he got too much purchase on his finish, side-footing over from 10 yards out.
And just ten minutes later, another golden opportunity fell Taylor's way. This time it stemmed from a long ball over the top of Arsenal's defence, and having beaten the offside trap, he rushed his finish by opting to shoot first time from 30 yards in stead of making the most of his clear run on goal.
But for all of Wanderers dominance, they still had to be on their guard of Arsenal's attacking threat. Knight made his second important clearance with a brave header and central defender Vermaelen curled a free-kick onto the roof of the net.
And then having scored the first, Fabregas became provider for Arsenal's second and match-winning goal of the game.
The Spaniard's ingenuity from midfield helped to start a Gunners' counter attack that culminated in substitute Fran Merida shooting low past Jaaskelainen from Eduardo's deep cross.
Owen Coyle brought on both Ricardo Gardner and Johan Elmander as a response but neither could make a significant impact in the final stages.
Both managers must now prepare their troops for the re-match at the Emirates Stadium in three days time.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Steinsson, Taylor, Muamba (McCann 60), Cohen (Gardner 80), Chung-Yong, Kevin Davies, Klasnic (Elmander 80) (Subs: Al Habsi, Ricketts, O'Brien, Mark Davies)
Arsenal: Almunia, Diaby, Sagna, Fabregas, Vermaelen, Rosicky (Clichy 73), Eduardo (Vela 83), Gallas, Arshavin, Traore, Eastmond (Merida 62) (Subs: Silvestre, Fabianski, Coquelin, Thomas)