Diouf feeds off rancour of Pompey fans

Portsmouth 1 - Bolton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Online

El-Hadji Diouf scored the goal that sent Bolton Wanderers into Europe for the first time even though they allowed Portsmouth an ill-deserved Aiyegbeni Yakubu equaliser. Bolton's fate was already determined, though, by the controversial Senegal striker and Tottenham's failure at Middlesbrough.

El-Hadji Diouf scored the goal that sent Bolton Wanderers into Europe for the first time even though they allowed Portsmouth an ill-deserved Aiyegbeni Yakubu equaliser. Bolton's fate was already determined, though, by the controversial Senegal striker and Tottenham's failure at Middlesbrough.

The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, had craftily leaked information he was going to leave Diouf out of his team to avoid the flak following his ban for three games after spitting in the face of Portsmouth captain, Arjan de Zeeuw, last November. Big Sam decided it would be foolish to omit his most dangerous player only when he got an angry phone call from Diouf, technically still on loan from Liverpool.

Bolton's assistant manager, Phil Brown, joked that Allardyce ducked the press conference to go on his first European scouting mission and said: "Diouf read in the papers that Sam was leaving him out and phoned us to say he was adamant he should play. He faced a lot of intimidation, as we expected, and has come through a lot this week, but he always plays on the edge and that is what makes him such a terrific player.

"His selection was vitally important to the result. Hopefully, he'll be playing European football for Bolton next season. It's a great achievement for us but it is what we set out to do after finishing eighth last season."

Diouf and De Zeeuw were the only two players not to shake hands before kick-off as the Portsmouth fans verbally abused the Bolton striker when he emerged to start the game. The incessant booing and swearing only seemed to inspire him, however, and Bolton were good for their lead as Diouf surprised no one by scoring in the 11th minute. He showed fine skill to control the ball on the edge of the area after a mistake by Valery Mezague and then dipped his left shoulder before injecting pace to surge past Dejan Stefanovic and finish with a low right-foot shot.

Diouf scored in front of the ever vocal Pompey faithful and milked his moment by cupping a hand to his ear to get the full force of their derision before he stood still in defiant celebration.

Appalling Portsmouth nearly equalised through a 25th-minute Gary O'Neil free-kick which Jussi Jasskelainen tipped over the bar and were only slightly better at the start of the second half. Pompey's manager, Alain Perrin, tried to shake things up with a double substitution on the hour, shortly after Allardyce had made his first change by introducing Kevin Nolan. But Bolton remained on top and nearly doubled their lead through Nolan, who had a shot deflected against a post.

Then, with the match seemingly slipping away from Portsmouth, they fluked a 72nd-minute equaliser as O'Neill's whipped free-kick cannoned off a defender and bounced in off Yakubu's shoulder. "We started slowly and I said to the players at half-time we needed to up the tempo," said Perrin.

The crowd went wild at the 17th goal of the season for the Nigerian, who will join Middlesbrough this summer, but reserved another cheer for Diouf's booking for a foul on Taylor and subsequent substitution. They raised it another level on news that Palace were temporarily beating Southampton. Footballing rivalry being what it is, that was the result they really cared about yesterday.

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