Bolton Wanderers 3, Birmingham City 0: Ton-up terror Anelka drives Bolton towards safety

Click to follow

Bolton vaulted above Brum in the lower reaches in the Premier League table, thanks to a burst of scoring that was long enough delayed to make them fear that they might let such feeble opposition off the hook.

Wanderers had just had what looked a perfectly good goal disallowed when El Hadji Diouf, with only his third goal of the season, and Nicholas Anelka, with his tenth, salvaged the afternoon in the space of five minutes. Both goals owed a lot to City's assistance, but it was that sort of game.

Anelka made it 11 in injury time when Kevin Nolan's pass sprang a creaky offside trap but the damage had already been done. In a match when all the meaningful action was crammed into the last 20 odd minutes, Bolton should have gone ahead through Nolan when Diouf floated in a clever free-kick that the Bolton captain tapped in at the far post. The assistant referee was flagging for offside, on the basis that Kevin Davies was thought to have got a head to it on its way through.

It did not look a good decision, certainly not to the Wanderers players in the vicinity, but it mattered a lot less five minutes later when Anelka got in a cross from the left, the former Bolton defender, Radhi Jaidi, failed to cut it out and Stephen Kelly lost his footing at the far post to enable Diouf to beat him and Maik Taylor for that overdue first goal. Another five minutes brought another goal - a freak one triggered by Johan Djourou's comically misdirected throw into the path of Anelka, who virtually walked it into the net. Bolton have made a habit of scoring from throws in recent years, but usually from their own.

"It was a mistake, but he's got such acceleration and such quick movement,"

said Gary Megson of the productive striker he hopes still to have at his disposal after the January transfer window: "Most players wouldn't have got away there or, if they had, wouldn't have finished as calmly as he did".

Birmingham's Alex McLeish, tasting his second defeat in his fourth game in charge, was less charitable in his assessments. "Christmas has come early for Bolton today," he said. "We committed three errors and that is hard to legislate for. The lads have held their hands up and apologised. We were well in the game when Bolton scored, having a bit of pressure in their half for a change". The first-half had been a frustrating affair for Bolton, always the likelier side but unable to capitalise on their clear superiority. A lovely early build up between Ivan Campo and Diouf saw Anelka's close range effort saved and Nolan put one to the wrong side of the post later on.

Jaidi had the knack of coming up with vital goals during his time at Bolton and almost carried that into his Birmingham career with a deflection from Kevin Davies's cross that hit Taylor instead of finding the back of his own net.

Birmingham were also fortunate to survive a penalty appeal when Rafael Schmitz appeared to move his arm to the ball. McLeish brought on Olivier Kapo as a much needed extra attacker at halftime and Birmingham began to hint at some attacking threats, their best efforts being Gary McSheffrey's deflected free-kick, which was kept out by Jussi Jaaskelainen's instinctive foot. "Jaaskelainen's save kept them in the game and then we make three errors like that," said McLeish: "In the Premier League those mistakes should be very, very rare".