Hitzlsperger's pile-driver leaves Bolton hearts broken

Bolton Wanderers 1 - Aston Villa 2
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The Independent Online

Aston Villa survived incessant late pressure from Bolton Wanderers before a stunning 89th-minute volley from substitute Thomas Hitzlsperger gave them a first away win of the season at the Reebok yesterday.

Aston Villa survived incessant late pressure from Bolton Wanderers before a stunning 89th-minute volley from substitute Thomas Hitzlsperger gave them a first away win of the season at the Reebok yesterday.

After Gavin McCann had cancelled out El-Hadji Diouf's second goal in Bolton colours, Villa had to resist countless long throws, corners and free-kicks to keep their opponents at bay. But as Bolton pressed for the winner, Villa broke and Hitzlsperger silenced the crowd with an emphatic and unexpected finish. It left the Midlands club within a point of Bolton in the table.

Andy Oakes, on loan from Derby County, made his first appearance for Bolton, with the appeal against the red card shown to Jussi Jaaskelainen in the draw at Middlesbrough last week rejected. He was surprisingly preferred to the veteran Kevin Poole, who began his career against Villa.

Allardyce, always tactically inventive, began the match with Fernando Hierro in front of the back four and Diouf playing alongside Henrik Pedersen and Kevin Davies in a three-man forward line.

Villa already had four away draws in the Premiership this season and showed little ambition in the early stages. It was little surprise when they fell behind after 20 minutes.

Kevin Nolan dragged his shot from the edge of the penalty area across goal but Diouf was on hand to put the ball past Thomas Sorensen and into the bottom corner. Nolan had space on Bolton's right and could have increased the lead with a long-range drive that skidded wide.

In a match competed largely in the middle third, whenever Villa found Juan Pablo Angel he was flagged offside.

Yet just before the break, Villa drew level with their first attack of note. Lee Hendrie swapped passes with Angel down the left flank and crossed for McCann to head in at the far post.

Bolton began the second half with new energy, forcing a succession of corners, few of which Villa handled with any degree of comfort.

One Bruno N'Gotty free-kick sparked chaos in the penalty area, both Gary Speed and Pedersen coming close to restoring the lead. With Hierro and Speed providing the know-how, the home side used the ball more productively than their opponents.

Pedersen should have taken advantage on the hour when Ulises De La Cruz's misplaced pass allowed him a free run on goal. The Dane's touch was clumsy, though, allowing Sorensen to block his shot.

As the game inevitably opened up in the later stages it became a far more entertaining spectacle. Angel had already threatened before Hendrie was betrayed by a poor first touch that should have allowed him a shooting opportunity from eight yards.

In the final stages, it was Bolton who did most of the attacking, but the closest they came was when Diouf headed against the post. Hitzlsperger's pile-driver denied them even a point.

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