Wanderers’ development squad turned in a gutsy performance but were ultimately unable to hold onto a goal lead against a strong Arsenal side in their season opener at the Emirates Stadium on Monday evening.
In front of an impressive 4,374 crowd, John Henry’s team weathered an early storm before turning the game on its head on 25 minutes.
Winger Chris Lester raced clear before being illegally halted Gunners ‘keeper Damian Martinez. Referee Paul Harris wasted no time in pointing to the spot before delving into his top pocket to pull out a red card for the Argentine stopper.
Skipper Adam Blakeman coolly dispatched the resulting kick beyond replacement goalkeeper James Shea to send Wanderers into a somewhat unexpected lead.
For the remainder of the half Bolton made the most of the numerical advantage, carving out a series of clear-cut opportunities.
On one particular occasion Tom Eaves was twice denied from close range by a fine double reflex save from Shea.
Though having regrouped at the interval, Arsenal suddenly began to demonstrate their prowess.
There was a stroke of good fortune about the home side’s leveller, with German youngster Thomas Eisfeld on hand to dispatch a loose ball after Chuba Akpom had rattled a post.
Then, as ten men had their tails up, they took the lead just after the hour mark.
Conor Henderson flighted a 25-yard free-kick around the Bolton wall and into Jay Lynch’s bottom corner.
Bolton pressed forward in search of an equaliser but were caught out at the back when the referee awarded a spot kick for the second time.
After Jernade Meade had been bundled over in the area, Henderson stepped up to convert from 12 yards to seal the points for the home side.
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin (Angha 80), Meade, Yennaris, Monteiro, Miquel, Eisfeld (Ebecilio 73), Henderson, Akpom, Olsson (Shea 25), Gnabry (Unused substitutes: Hajrovic, Toral, Jeffrey)
Wanderers: Lynch, Maher, Kellett, McQuade, Threlkeld, Blakeman, Lester (Sampson 75), Kelly (Odelusi 46), Eaves, Wolstenhome, Iliev (Unused substitutes: Fielding, Hampson, Dennis)