Phillips strikes to hand Saints a lifeline

Bolton Wanderers 1 - Southampton 1
Click to follow

The dream of European football remains alive for Bolton Wanderers, but their chances of securing the fourth Champions' League spot were dealt a potentially decisive blow at the Reebok Stadium last night.

The dream of European football remains alive for Bolton Wanderers, but their chances of securing the fourth Champions' League spot were dealt a potentially decisive blow at the Reebok Stadium last night.

Having totally dominated the first hour, Sam Allardyce's men were made to pay for their profligacy when Southampton came back to earn a point which could prove crucial in their fight for Premiership survival. While Bolton's point was not enough to take them above Everton and into fourth place, Southampton's took them out of the relegation zone.

Kevin Davies has usually led the Bolton line this season, but the responsibility last night was handed to El Hadji Diouf, who had come off the bench on Saturday to score the winner at Charlton.

Diouf, supported by Stelios Giannakopoulos and by Kevin Nolan's breaking runs, was always looking to stretch the Southampton defence on either flank and the Senegalese striker's movement set up the breakthrough after 24 minutes. Bruno N'Gotty's searching pass found Diouf in space on the right and his precision cross was met with a diving header in the six-yard box by Giannakopoulos.

The goal was just reward for Bolton's early domination. N'Gotty, unmarked at the far post only eight yards out, headed over the bar and Nigel Quashie blocked efforts on the line by Kevin Nolan and Giannakopoulos in a hectic scramble.

The Southampton manager, Harry Redknapp, had accused his defenders of failing to communicate with each other last week's 3-2 defeat by Aston Villa and there was little sign of improvement here. In one remarkable passage of play 10 minutes before the interval Nolan, Fernando Hierro and Jay Jay Okocha were in turn given time and space to shoot, only to waste their opportunities.

As the first half wore on Southampton were increasingly pegged back inside their own half, though N'Gotty had to be on the alert when Kevin Phillips threatened to break clear on the right. A further goal continued to look more likely at the other end: Giannakopoulos mistimed a shot from 10 yards out when sent clear by Okocha and Diouf stung Antti Niemi's hands with a rasping shot from the corner of the penalty area.

Within two minutes of the restart Bolton wasted another glorious chance, Diouf blazing over the bar from six yards.

A one-goal advantage can never be wholly secure, however, and after 55 minutes Jussi Jaaskelainen had to make a remarkable double save to deny Southampton, who had brought on Matt Oakley for Graeme Le Saux at the start of the second half. Rory Delap's cross found Peter Crouch, whose header was blocked at point-blank range by Jaaskelainen. The Finnish goalkeeper then dived to keep out a follow-up shot by Oakley, who then sent his final effort over the bar.

Southampton were duly encouraged and enjoyed a spell of domination for the first time in the match. Oakley found space on the wing and Crouch's strength in the air started to unsettle the Bolton defence. It was no surprise when Southampton equalised after 68 minutes, Phillips finding space 10 yards out after being released by Delap. The striker shot coolly past Jaaskelainen to stun the home crowd into silence.

The goal prompted a frenzied Bolton response. Davies, who had replaced Nolan, struck a post from 10 yards and was denied by Niemi's brave block, while Okocha twice drove into the side netting, firstly after being released by Diouf and then from a free-kick. Southampton might have stolen victory, however, Phillips shooting over the bar from six yards.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Candela (Gardner, 87); Okocha, Hierro, Nolan (Davies, 65), Speed; Giannakopoulos (Jaidi, 89), Diouf. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Campo.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Delap, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Higginbotham; Telfer, Svensson (Nilsson, 78), Quashie, Le Saux (Oakley, h-t); Phillips, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Davenport, Nilsson, Camara.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

Comments