Aston Villa 0 Bolton Wanderers 1: Anelka's tumble delivers cruel blow as Jaaskelainen excels

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The Independent Football

Bolton defy logic so often that you begin to feel there must be a reason for it. For much of yesterday's game they were outplayed by Aston Villa, but, not for the first time this season, they held out thanks to a mixture of luck and the brilliance of their goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, and then stole a late goal, not for the first time, from a Gary Speed penalty.

Gabor Kiraly, making his debut for Villa after arriving on loan from Crystal Palace as cover for Thomas Sorensen and Steven Taylor - both the victims of knee injuries - wouldn't have had a stain on his trademark grey tracksuit bottoms when, with 15 minutes remaining, Stiliyan Petrov bundled into Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman had been a virtual spectator until then, and if his only meaningful contribution was to collapse, it was a decisive one. Speed thumped his penalty straight down the middle, as Kiraly dived to his right, and the points, unthinkably, were Bolton's.

"We got a victory we didn't deserve," the Bolton manager Sam Allardyce accepted. "We showed resilience, some brave defending, some good goalkeeping and we had a little bit of luck. We're not pleased not to have played our best, but we'll always take the victory."

"We should have won handsomely," the Villa manager Martin O'Neill declared. "We played very, very well. We were terrific. I genuinely don't remember our keeper having a save to make."

If the result seemed cruel on Villa, it was nothing to what they had put Henrik Pedersen through. It is admirable that the centre-forward is so willing to fill in at left-back, but at 31, his pace is deserting him, a fact laid bare by a turbo-charged gazelle like Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Back in the day, when he was banging them in for Silkeborg, Pedersen was affectionately known as the Carpenter after he turned up to training one day in an ill-advised pair of dungarees. Yesterday, as the 20-year-old zipped by him again and again, it appeared he had been made of wood himself.

The speed issue was perhaps predictable; what was not expected was that Agbonlahor also had the beating of Pedersen in the air. When he got above the full-back to head down Gareth Barry's cross five minutes into the second half, Craig Gardner, on as a half-time replacement for Gavin McCann, looked sure to score. Jaaskelainen, though, somehow managed to get a foot to the ball.

"I wouldn't apportion too much blame," O'Neill said. "He's just coming in; it's his first taste of first-team action, but he's been dominating reserve games. It came to him very early on and he hadn't got into the game."

As Gary Cahill sent a 30-yard drive fizzing towards the top corner 16 minutes later, the Finn pulled off an even better save, leaping up and to his left to tip the ball over the bar. "Our goalkeeper will earn you points over a season," Allardyce said. "His contribution was worth just as much as Gary Speed at the other end."

Harsher critics will blame Agbonlahor for not making more of his chances, others will praise the brilliance of Jaaskelainen. Either way, the Carpenter will look on Bolton's second victory at Villa Park in half a century with the wonder of Geppetto seeing Pinocchio come to life for the first time. It was, frankly, miraculous.

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