Bolton give Hierro a fitting send-off

Bolton Wanderers 3 - Everton 2
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The Independent Football

If Fernando Hierro was harbouring second thoughts about retirement, they were surely swept away by this remarkable game that left Bolton with a frustrated feeling of what might have been and Everton relieved the season has finally come to an end.

If Fernando Hierro was harbouring second thoughts about retirement, they were surely swept away by this remarkable game that left Bolton with a frustrated feeling of what might have been and Everton relieved the season has finally come to an end.

Hierro graced a dramatic game with his usual aplomb and left the field midway through the second half to a reception that belied the fact he has been an integral part of Sam Allardyce's team for less than half a season. But having experienced another frenetic Premiership encounter that saw his side - reduced to 10 men by the first-half dismissal of Bruno N'Gotty - recover from Tim Cahill's opening goal eventually to prevail, the 37-year-old is entitled to believe this is a young man's game.

For Bolton, victory was scant consolation for having failed in their efforts to challenge Everton more effectively for the fourth Champions' League spot and turn this game into a winner-takes-all encounter that would have ensured the focus on the final day of the season was on the upper reaches of the table and not just the bottom. Everton will be grateful to enjoy a deserved rest on the beach having scaled heights this season that were unthinkable last August.

A stuttering run-in with points dropped wastefully at home to Southampton and at Portsmouth meant Wanderers were playing for pride - and the prospect of finishing fifth if Liverpool slipped up. As it was, they had to be satisfied with sixth, their best League finish since 1960, and the distinction of being the first Bolton team to have qualified for European competition.

Bolton started the game as though they had a point to prove, immediately peppering Richard Wright's goal. But the balance shifted quickly in the ninth minute when a farcical misunderstanding between Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton keeper, and his full-back Tal Ben Haim, allowed a Tony Hibbert cross to go through invitingly for Cahill, who finished with a neat overhead kick.

Bolton rallied, but a combination of poor finishing and a rush of blood from N'Gotty meant the half-time interval came with the home side facing a daunting challenge to get back into the game. N'Gotty paid the price for tangling with Cahill, no stranger to the art of winding an opponent up, and hit out at the midfielder, earning a red card.

Yet instead of deflating Bolton, the incident inspired them and they were level nine minutes after the break when Rahdi Jaidi headed home Hierro's free-kick. Then Kevin Davies hit a deflected shot off David Weir that gave Bolton a 61st-minute lead only for Lee Carsley to level for Everton with a composed finish two minutes later. This, though, was to be Bolton's day and Stelios Giannakopoulos sealed victory when he finished from close range in the 67th minute.

Goals: Cahill (9) 0-1; Jaidi (54) 1-1; Davies (61) 2-1; Carsley (63) 2-2; Giannakopoulos (67) 3-2.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Gardner; Stelios, Okocha, Hierro, Speed; Diouf, Davies. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Nolan, Candela, Vaz Te, O'Brien.

Everton (4-5-1): Wright; Hibbert, Weir, Yobo, Watson; McFadden, Cahill, Carsley, Arteta, Kilbane; Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Martyn (gk), Pistone, Osman, Stubbs, Vaughan.

Referee: N Barry (Lincolnshire).

Booked: Bolton Diouf, Davies; Everton Cahill.

Sent off: Bolton N'Gotty (44).

Man of the match: Diouf.

Attendance: 27,701.

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