Honours even in an entertaining final fixture of pre-season at the Reebok
Bolton will head into next week’s season-opener at Burnley on the back of an impressive performance against Barcelona B.
6,885 were on hand to witness an entertaining final game of pre-season at the Reebok, one which came to life in the second-half.
All four goals were scored within the space of 18 minutes as Wanderers twice came from behind to earn a creditable draw.
After Lobato broke the deadlock with a crisp left foot strike ten minutes after half-time, Bolton equalised when Martin Petrov’s cross was turned into his own goal by Sergi Gomez.
A tidy far post finish from full-back Balliu made it 2-1, but Marvin Sordell’s close-range header on 73 minutes earned Wanderers a creditable draw.
Following on from the midweek win over Tranmere, manager Owen Coyle once again shuffled his pack, making six changes for the final friendly of pre-season.
After a tentative start to proceedings, the game came to life on seven minutes when Chris Eagles – back operating on the right side of midfield in a 4-4-2 formation - was denied his third goal of pre-season by the woodwork.
It was enterprising football from Bolton as a perfectly-weighted pass from Marvin Sordell found Petrov down the left, with the Bulgarian cleverly pulling the ball back for Eagles instead of whipping a trademark cross into the area. The number seven steadied himself before jabbing an effort against the post from ten yards out, while Kevin Davies was unable to convert the rebound.
But, as expected, the visitors soon began to knock the ball around with the same swagger and elegance as their first team, keeping the Wanderers defence and midfield constantly on their toes.
Gerard Deulofeu – highlighted before the game by friend Benik Afobe as one to watch – was cropping up in all positions and, indeed, curled a shot wide after Auraujo had excellently pulled the ball out of the air and played a blind pass.
But despite the Spaniards’ dominance in possession, Wanderers proved hard to break down in the first half and they kept clear-cut opportunities down to a minimum.
The only real time that Bogdan was tested was from a 25-yard free-kick, taken by the left-footed Araujo midway through the half. The Hungarian had a good view and moved to his right and made a strong save with his right hand.
Zat Knight was required to make a couple of telling challenges in his own area, while his defensive partner Matt Mills did well to stick out a boot and turn Espinosa’s effort behind for a corner.
As for Bolton, they were also denied by some last-ditch defending as they looked to impose themselves on the contest.
Keith Andrews had a shot from the edge of the area charged down following a marauding run from right-back by Tyrone Mears.
And ten minutes before the interval, Marvin Sordell found space to get a header on goal, only for referee Neil Swarbrick to wave away the resulting penalty appeals after the ball appeared to strike a Barcelona defender on the arm.
The start of the second half saw four changes to the Wanderers team as Tim Ream, Chung-Yong Lee, Benik Afobe and Marcos Alonso were given one final chance to stake their claim for a place a Turf Moor.
Like with the opening to the game, it was a patient start by both teams in the second period, up until 55 minutes when Barcelona B hit the front with a well-taken goal from Lobato – signalling the start of a goal spree.
Finding a pocket of space on the edge of the area, the 23-year-old hit a low shot which flew past Bogdan’s right hand and into the bottom corner of the net.
However, Bolton’s response to the setback was positive and they equalised five minutes later when Sergi Gomez put through his own goal.
Martin Petrov took credit for the assist, delivering an inviting ball in for the left which the centre-half shanked and sliced into the top corner of the net.
Goalkeeper Olazabal was helpless for the equaliser– but he did brilliantly in the next attack, preventing Afobe from turning the game on its head within a matter of minutes.
Latching onto Mark Davies’ through ball, the in-form striker took the ball in his stride and seemed destined to second his fourth in four days, only for the Barca goalkeeper to make a sprawling save.
Instead, it was the visitors who nudged ahead again on 67 minutes when right-back Balliu got in behind Petrov and Alonso to convert from a tight angle after a defence-splitting pass from Lobato.
But once again, Wanderers came roaring back, this time Marvin Sordell bagging his first in a Wanderers shirt.
After a period of pressure which saw Olazabal thwart both Petrov and Mills, Sordell found space in the six-yard box to plant a free header into the back of the net to bring Bolton back level for a second time.
The momentum was with Bolton in the final stages as they pushed hard for a winner, despite a procession of substitutions being made by Owen Coyle.
Substitute Michael O’Halloran flashed a shot across goal, but in the end both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Next up for Wanderers is the mouth-watering trip to Burnley in eight days’ time.
Wanderers:Bogdan, Mears (Riley 81), Mills, Eagles (Chung-Yong 46), Andrews (Pratley 64), Petrov (Wylde 76), Knight (Ream 46), Kevin Davies (Afobe 46), Mark Davies (Vela 76), Ricketts (Alonso 46), Sordell (O’Halloran 81) (Subs not used: Lonergan, Lynch)
Barcelona B: Olazabal, Balliu, Sergi Gomez, Planas, David Lomban, Deulofeu, Espinosa, Kiko, Lobato, Gustavo Ledes, Araujo (Subs: Masip, Luis Alberto, Patricio, Agostinho Ca, Sergio Juste, Quintilla, Miguel Maza, Joan Roman, Banuz, Dongou Tsafack, Grimaldo)