Curcic conjures a lifeline for Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 2 Chelsea 1
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The Independent Online

Bolton Wanderers 2 Chelsea 1

If most people believe that Bolton have already booked their place in the First Division next season, they have forgotten to tell Sasa Curcic. The Serb's stunning solo goal yesterday afternoon rekindled the dying embers of the Bolton survival bid.

On the back of a dismal showing at Everton on Saturday, Burnden Park initially carried a melancholy air of resignation. It was a point in the campaign crying out for individual heroics.

The timing of Curcic's winner, minutes before half-time, was as crucial as the goal itself. Midway into the Chelsea half, Curcic hopped, skipped and jumped through the crowd before rifling a 20-yard drive into the top corner.

The midfielder has largely carried the huge burden of expectation on his own slender shoulders throughout the season - because of his side's woeful strike rate, he has been forced to spark the attack almost singlehandedly. With only three games remaining though, the other Bolton players belatedly combined to help ease Curcic's Herculean task.

Colin Todd, the Bolton manager, was understandably delighted at the revival. "It was an excellent performance - we've hit the critics again. We passed the ball well at times. They are digging deep and we are back in with a shout again. We were more compact and closer to our midfield players than on Saturday."

On the other hand, the Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, was critical of his side's application and attitude. "It's about their pride. Are they hurt as much as I am? Bolton were worthy winners and there were times when they showed better quality on the ball. It is a collective game and until we get the act together as a team we are not going to do anything."

Bolton's early defensive work showed all the urgency of a pre-season friendly and this was typified by the simplicity of Chelsea's unchallenged three-man move to take the lead. Ruud Gullit released Paul Furlong to the byline, and his cut-back created space for John Spencer to drill home.

Chelsea struggled to turn domination into chances, though, and Bolton, although sparked into life by the visitors' goal, also struggled to carve many openings. John McGinlay, fed into the area by Alan Stubbs, had the best chance, but hit an angled first-time shot into the far corner before Curcic stole the show.

Bolton (4-5-1): Ward; Bergsson, Fairclough, Coleman, Phillips; McGinlay, Stubbs, Sellars, Thompson, Curcic; Blake (Taylor, 81). Substitutes not used: Paatelainen, Green.

Chelsea (3-5-2): Hitchcock; Myers, Lee, Duberry; Petrescu (Burley 45), Gullit, Wise, Spackman, Minto (Peacock 67); Spencer, Furlong. Substitute not used: Kharin (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).