Arsenal 1 Bolton Wanderers 1: Gunners rescued by Touré late show

By Frank Wiechula
Monday 29 January 2007 01:00

Arsène Wenger's side rescued their participation in the FA Cup as well as their unbeaten record at the Emirates Stadium against the team they hate to face yesterday.

Just as his youngsters came from two down in their midweek Carling Cup semi-final at Tottenham, Wenger's "old boys" ensured that their interest remained in the other domestic knockout trophy with Kolo Touré's single late leveller. On no fewer than a dozen occasions this season Arsenal have come from behind to obtain a result, 10 of them at their new Emirates domain.

Arsenal had to be strong, patient and then resilient against a Bolton side who had taken a 50th-minute lead through their captain, Kevin Nolan, and had threatened to turf the Londoners out of a competition they virtually regard as their own for the second time in three seasons.

There are bogey teams and then there are bogey teams. But Bolton, under the no-nonsense Sam Allardyce, havenightmare status in that category for Arsenal. Wenger's men have a better record over 10 matches against Manchester United and Liverpool than they do against Bolton, who have been as successful as Chelsea against the Gunners. Arsenal have beaten Bolton only once in their last eight meetings in League and cup and will hardly relish the replay at the Reebok Stadium.

But Wenger is not worried at the prospect, even though many people feel Bolton hold a mental edge over his side, and the Frenchman said: "I'm not concerned about going there. Sometimes it's better to go away in the FA Cup than at home.

"We were flat, we didn't have the right sharpness and we played at their pace. Our focus was not sharp enough and our passing was sloppy ­ they had the chance to score a second but it was all us in the second half."

But this result was achieved at a cost of another injury, this time to attacking midfielder Julio Baptista, to add to a growing list which could force Wenger into action in the remaining few days of the transfer window. Wenger said: "I have a bit of money, but I would see that as a panic buy because it was not planned. Julio has a groin problem and we have already lost Robin van Persie, it's important not to lose too many players."

The bustling presence up front of Bolton's Kevin Davies and the formidable aerial threat he poses were evident as early as the second minute. He rose unchallenged from a Stelios corner to force the Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to make a scrambled save on his line at the second attempt.

Arsenal steadied themselves and Tomas Rosicky and Gaël Clichy combined on the left to set up a very presentable sixth-minute opportunity for Thierry Henry on the edge of the box. The mercurial Frenchman flicked up the ball and you sensed another potential goal of the season contender, only for Henry, unusually, to screw his volleyed effort wide.

Arsenal's right wing protégé Theo Walcott then took the opportunity to remind us of his precocious ability, pace and directness when he burst through on 20 minutes, forcing Bolton's goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen into his first serious save.

Henry then went very close to conjuring up another of those trademark finishes four minutes before the break. Pouncing on an errant Ricardo Gardner header back, Henry got in front of Jaaskelainen and audaciously back-heeled it goalwards, only to see the vigilant Abdoulaye Meite hack the ball off the line.

Arsenal's rampaging striker Emmanuel Adebayor was convinced he should have been awarded a spot-kick soon afterwards, sent tumbling by an already booked Abdoulaye Faye, but the referee, Mike Dean, ignored the pleas.

If Arsenal and Wenger, never slow to voice his distaste at Bolton's aggressive, pressing game was feeling hard done by, then he will have felt a lot worse five minutes after the restart.

Nolan started and finished the move, sending the former Arsenal player Nicolas Anelka into the middle. Anelka then found Davies in space on the right. His shot looked like a dreadful miscue, but fortunately it found Nolan on his own six yards out and the neat, low shot into the corner was an exercise in composure. Perfect timing, too, as it was his second goal in a week, following a 13-match barren spell.

Bolton were lifted and Nolan was denied a second goal two minutes later only by Almunia's fingertips as he burst through. Arsenal were rocking but spurned a glorious chance of an equaliser when Walcott volleyed wastefully wide from Adebayor's precise flick 60 seconds later.

Mindful of their FA Cup pedigree and Emirates prestige, Arsenal turned up the volume, but found Jaaskelainen a defiant barrier, as he palmed away one-handed from Henry and punched out a Cesc Fabregas long-range rocket.

Wenger even threw on Baptista, fresh from his four and two-goal hauls against Liverpool and Tottenham respectively in the Carling Cup ­ but this time the Beast went hungry.

Wenger's men were thrown a 78th-minute lifeline when they equalised through the lion-hearted defender Touré. Fabregas' free-kick spun off the head of Bolton's Gary Speed, and Touré, lurking with intent at the far post, flung himself headlong to send his header over Jaaskelainen's flailing arms into the far corner. Bolton hung on but so do Arsenal who have won this trophy in three of the last five years, and on four occasions under Wenger.

But, if they are to reach their fifth final in the last seven attempts, they know that they will have to tame the terror that is Bolton.

Allardyce revealed that Israeli centre-back Tal Ben Haim, a recent transfer target of Chelsea, had missed a match with a calf injury, fuelling speculation Jose Mourinho may be back in for him.

Goals: Nolan (50) 0-1; Touré (78) 1-1

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Hoyte (Baptista, 70), Senderos, Touré, Clichy; Walcott (Aliadière, 86), Flamini, Fabregas, Rosicky; Adebayor, Henry. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Denilson, Diaby.

Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Faye, Meite, Gardner (Pedersen, 78); Nolan, Campo, Steed; Davies, Anelka, Stelios (Vaz Te, 83). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Teymourian, Tal.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Arsenal Flamini, Senderos, Aliadière; Bolton Faye, Hunt, Meite.

Man of the match: Davies.

Attendance: 59,778.

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