Arsenal 1 Bolton 1: Reyes misery for fractured Arsenal

Wenger makes plea against cynicism as Spanish winger's agony adds to Highbury gloom
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The Independent Football

It was last night feared that Jose Antonio Reyes had broken his leg after a horrendous two-footed tackle by Bolton's Abdoulaye Faye, but for much of this match it was the Arsenal team as a whole that appeared fractured.

The loss of Reyes would be some blow but his manager, Arsène Wenger, delivered a few of his own after Gilberto Silva's injury-time goal just saved his team from a ninth League defeat of the season and preserved their hopes of qualifying for the Champions' League.

Wenger accused Bolton of "showing all the tricks which are creeping into the game" - such as "players diving three times" and "taking five minutes to make a change [substitution]".

"People don't like to see players lie down on the pitch when there is nothing," Wenger said, although he should also take a clear look at the ridiculous antics of his German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, including a petulant push on Matt Jansen, when, as he promised, he reviewed the tapes.

Wenger said that the referee, Howard Webb, needed to show "more authority", but if he had done so then Mathieu Flamini, as well as Faye, would have been shown a red card. The Frenchman's tackle on Ricardo Gardner was equally ugly and he was not even cautioned.

Wenger's impassioned plea against creeping cynicism and gamesmanship is warranted but, in the cold light of day, it was born more of frustration than Bolton's antics. Sam Allardyce, the visiting manager, was certainly having none of it. "He should not whinge about us," he said. "He should worry about himself and his own team."

It was a justified response. Indeed, for much of this irritable, tetchy encounter Bolton were in control against a callow Arsenal line-up that appeared not just to lack Sol, with the injured Sol Campbell one of eight absent defenders, but heart as well.

But Bolton paid for missed chances and for a loss of ambition as, when the second goal did not come, they back-tracked under Arsenal's increasingly frenzied onslaught. Bolton are now unbeaten in eight matches, but have thrown away leads in the final minutes of their past three games.

Again it was Bolton who flew out of the blocks, quickly exposing Arsenal's defensive fragility. Inside the first two minutes Kevin Nolan mis-hit a half-volley, but still forced a smart save by Lehmann, and Bruno N'Gotty's header from the corner bounced back off the crossbar.

Arsenal were floundering and then they were behind. Hidetoshi Nakata prodded the ball through, Jansen challenged on the corner of the area and it ran to Nolan, who confidently flicked it over Lehmann with the outside of his boot.

Within moments Arsenal were turned again, with only a timely tackle by Johan Djourou halting Nolan as he shaped to shoot. Faye's challenge on Reyes was far more rudimentary. He won the ball, but had both feet off the ground and left the Spanish international in a painful heap. Reyes was taken off on a stretcher, his legs strapped together. Wenger said he was waiting for the X-ray results but "feared" the worst. Flamini tried to exact an angry retribution as Arsenal continued to unravel and, after the break, Joey O'Brien's cross narrowly evaded both Jansen and Stelios Giannakopoulos.

Suddenly, however, Arsenal were given hope. A long punt forward by Philippe Senderos appeared innocuous but Talal Ben Haim made a hash of his header and Emmanuel Adebayor latched on. His first touch was poor, the angle narrowed, denying him a shot, and the ball was eventually ferried back to the substitute Robert Pires, who side-footed over. Pires then forced a smart block by Jussi Jaaskelainen from a free-kick, and the keeper also saved alertly from Cesc Fabregas's sharp, low shot from a corner.

By now Arsenal had momentum, and although Jansen lifted another Bolton chance over the bar, greater opportunities were falling to the home side. Twice Henry was crowded out and then Fabregas's cross was met by the onrushing Gilberto, whose volley crashed into the net.

There was even time for Gardner to head off his own goal-line, but a draw was the least Bolton deserved. Wenger said he was proud of his players and the "character" they had eventually shown. Allardyce said he felt the same. It was about the only thing on which they did agree.

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