Nolan is fast emerging as Bolton's most effective player this season and his close-range effort gave Bolton the cushion they needed to survive a game that descended into farce during the final half-hour to take control of Group H. The young midfielder made it four wins in four under his captaincy.
"Every time Kevin goes forward and gets into the box at the moment it looks like he will score," the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, said. "Inevitably I will have to look at him keeping the captaincy, partly through superstition and partly because he has threatened me with two black eyes if I try to take it off him."
These were not the alien conditions Allardyce had warned his players of as they embarked on their maiden European adventure at the start of this season. But his side displayed commendable resolve to survive second-half pressure to justify the manager's decision to change his policy and field a near full-strength side for the first time in this competition.
"The conditions made it very difficult and the match would have been called off if it was a Premiership game," he added. "We are in a very, very good position and a point against Vitoria Guimaraes [in the next group game] should see us qualify." The initial signs suggested this would be a testing night before Kevin Davies twice had the chance to ease Bolton nerves with an early goal. The forward though missed an easy header from Nolan's cross before shooting wide when sent clear by Gary Speed.
Relief finally came, though, in the 24th minute when the visiting defence failed to clear Bruno N'Gotty's clipped free-kick, allowing the ball to drop inside the six-yard box where Nolan followed up after Stelios Giannakopoulos' shot was saved. With the pitch rapidly turning into a lifeless bog, the second half produced significantly more splashing than passing and although Jussi Jaaskelainen was twice called into action, Bolton survived to nudge themselves closer to the knock-out stages.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1) : Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, N'Gotty, Ben Haim, Gardner; Giannakopoulos, Nolan (Diouf, 85), Faye, Nakata (Okocha, 66), Speed; Davies (Borgetti, 74). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Jaidi, Vaz Te, Fojut.
Zenit St Petersburg (4-4-2) :Contofalsky; Flachbart, , Hagen, Vjestica, Skrtel (Gorshkov, 25); Anyukov, Sumulikoski, Denisov, Vlasov (Kozlov, 89); Kerzhakov, Arshavin. Substitutes not used: Malafeev (gk), Cadikovsky, Poskus, Korzhanov, Stroev.
Referee: M Trefoloni (Italy).
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