Bolton late show is another blow for under-fire Houllier

Bolton Wanderers 3 Aston Villa 2
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The Independent Football

Gerard Houllier at least sent out a Villa team capable of winning – and one which probably should have on the balance of chances – but was still left looking embarrassed after Bolton twice came from behind to climb into sixth place – at least temporarily – in the Premier League.

If conceding an 86th-minute winner was not hard enough to swallow, Houllier's team could have been 3-1 ahead had Ashley Young not wasted a chance from the penalty spot with 19 minutes remaining.

It was hardly what the Frenchman needed to rebuild his fracturing relationship with Villa fans after he had surrendered their FA Cup prospects at Manchester City in midweek by sending out a substantially weakened team, then made matters worse by suggesting his first XI would not have done any better.

He brought back the eight he had left out at Eastlands but they conspired to prove only how capable they are of throwing points away, particularly away from home, where their tally of points given up from winning positions now stands at 15.

Yet it could have been so different. Darren Bent scored after 15 minutes, touching in Kyle Walker's cross from close range for his 11th goal against Bolton, but he could have had three before the home side created a chance of their own, having made a hash of an early opportunity to take the ball around Jussi Jaaskelainen and then hit the bar with a header.

Bolton were fortunate, to say the least, to reach half-time at 1-1 after Gary Cahill, the former Villa defender, scored the first of his two goals in first-half stoppage time, heading home Martin Petrov's corner.

They continued to ride their luck early in the second half. Stewart Downing missed an open goal at the far post and then had David Wheater's block from Bent and Jaaskelainen's save from Ashley Young to thank for keeping them in it.

When Albrighton then converted Downing's cross to restore Villa's lead after 64 minutes, Bolton could hardly say they had not seen it coming, and when Wheater's lunging obstruction of Young had referee Kevin Friend pointing to the spot, it seemed Houllier's stock was to rise.

But Jaaskelainen saved Young's kick and instead it was Bolton's self-belief that soared. With 15 minutes to go, Cahill scored his second goal, following up after Brad Friedel had saved his own header and, with Villa now under the cosh, substitute Ivan Klasnic struck the priceless winner.

"Sometimes you are happy with the performance and the result," Houllier said. "This time we had the performance but not the result.

"We had three defenders aged 20, so maybe we were a bit naïve. Then again, maybe selling Gary Cahill a few years ago was a bit naïve too."

Owen Coyle, the delighted Bolton manager, realised Villa's loss was Bolton's gain. "Cahill's finish for the second equaliser was as good as a centre forward," he said.

Attendance: 22,533.

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Man of the match: Cahill.