Old boy's return haunts Saints

Southampton 1 Bolton Wanderers 2
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The Independent Football

Having prospered and scored freely on an extended road trip, Southampton crashed embarrassingly in a disastrous final quarter of an hour of their first home game for four weeks, consigned to defeat by the cunning of Jay-Jay Okocha.

Having prospered and scored freely on an extended road trip, Southampton crashed embarrassingly in a disastrous final quarter of an hour of their first home game for four weeks, consigned to defeat by the cunning of Jay-Jay Okocha.

Sitting none too comfortably on the early lead given by the cool finishing of Marian Pahars, restored after more than a year out injured, Southampton lost a game they had counted on winning in pursuit of a place in Europe. They won't be happy, either, that the winner was scored by Kevin Davies, released by them as a failure and snapped up by Bolton with much success this season.

In fact, it was a two-Kevin afternoon, with Kevin Nolan beginning the undermining process, also with his head. But the groundwork was Okocha's. Perhaps it was the rarity of having warm sunshine on his back in England, but the Nigerian international was in majestic form.

If Sam Allardyce succeeds in his bold bid to sign Rivaldo, the combination with Okocha could be quite something. The Bolton manager said after the game: "Rivaldo is considering our offer and will come back in the next 48 hours with a decision. I am hopeful a result like this will persuade him to say yes. But I am not getting too carried away. Somebody else could come in with a bigger offer."

Okocha needed just five minutes to stamp a mark on this match. He fired a pass out right for Anthony Barness to overlap and cross, and when this was cleared by Claus Lundekvam it was Okocha who clipped Antti Niemi's crossbar from 35 yards.

Southampton went in front in the 21st minute. Niemi pushed a short free kick to Paul Telfer, who thumped a ball to the edge of the Bolton area, where Pahars got past Barness, controlled the ball on his chest and chipped it in.

Eight minutes later Davies should have equalised. Put in the clear by Henrik Pedersen, he drove his shot against Niemi's leg and it was becoming clearer by the minute that the more controlled football of Bolton ought to bring some reward, despite the man-marking mission on Okocha given to David Prutton in the second half.

The closest Southampton came to boosting their lead was a loud shout for a penalty when the newly-arrived substitute, Anders Svensson, fell under a tackle by Simon Charlton as they pursued a deep cross from Pahars. The referee, Steve Dunn, was not interested.

After that, as their manager Paul Sturrock, put it: "We sauntered through the second half and were punished by two sucker punches." The first was one of Okocha's trademark long throws which, like others before it, caused panic in the home defence. A couple of shots were charged down before Davies, rather than opt for another wallop, sensibly lifted the ball to the far post for Nolan to head in.

Southampton were still attempting to come to terms with this when Okocha delivered a stunning deep ball, again to the far post, and Davies put it away. He was entitled to his extravagant celebration. As Allardyce said, "The script was written for him today."

Southampton 1
Pahars 21

Bolton Wanderers 2
Nolan 77, Davies 78

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 31,712

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