Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 2 November 2008, 16:00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne (c), Ben-Haim, Richards, Kompany, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Elano (Hamann 68), Robinho, Evans (Sturridge 68)
Unused: Schmeichel, Onuoha, Garrido, Gelson, Caicedo
City Man of the Match: Richard Dunne
City started the game brightly with lots of early possession and some pressure on the Bolton goal, but without testing Jaaskelainen. On six minutes, Robinho fired a warning shot across Bolton’s bows, with a long range effort that flew narrowly over the bar.
Bolton began to get a foot on the ball, but neither side, in truth, could keep possession and this looked like it was going to be a scrappy game. Bolton had their first effort courtesy of Riga on 17 minutes, but it was well wide and not troubling Joe Hart.
On the half hour, City looked to have created a great chance when Ireland recovered to tackle Riga, before the Irishman found Robinho. But the Brazilian’s through pass to Evans was too heavy for the youngster to catch.
Zabaleta picked up his first City yellow card for fouling Riga, and it looked like referee Mike Riley was going to produce a red, despite there being only the slightest of touches on the Bolton man.
Richard Dunne produced the tackle of the game on 38 minutes, when Riga thought he was away, but the big skipper had other ideas when he slid in to prevent the break.
Minutes before half time, Evans picked up a bouncing ball in the middle of the pitch, brought it under control and began to drive at the Bolton defence. He slipped Ireland through superbly and City should have been one up, but the Irishman could only hit Jaaskelainen on the one-on-one.
City had a second chance to go in at 0-1, after Evans was through, but, once again, Jaaskelainen saved, before he was able to hold on to a Shaun Wright-Phillips diving header, after Elano had crossed it back in.
The away side looked more likely to take the lead after the break, too, as Wright-Phillips carried the ball past three Bolton defenders, but was losing his balance as he fired a left footed shot well over.
Bolton then began to pressure, but didn’t ever look like scoring, as Joe Hart was still yet to make a save.
This changed on the hour mark as Nolan got free after a City clearance was blocked, but his right footed effort was well blocked by the away side’s keeper. Hart was also able to smother the Bolton midfielder’s cross, immediately after.
Bolton then had a shout for a penalty turned down as Dunne challenged Taylor, but the referee said no, perhaps rightly, but on another day it could so easily have been given. Riley then turned down a City appeal for a spot kick for a suspected handball against Samuel.
From that incident, Bolton took the lead on 77 minutes, when Nolan knocked a driven ball out to Steinsson on the break, who crossed low for Gardner to knock home off the bar, despite doing his best to miss. There were suspicions of offside against Gardner, who was certainly past the defence, but possibly level with the ball.
The goal seemed to shake City up and the away side began to put their foot on the ball, with some good possession inside the Bolton half.
With six minutes to go, Stephen Ireland burst down the left wing, carrying the ball from the halfway line to the by line, before crossing for Robinho, who was inches away from connecting and surely making it 1-1.
Gardner was then freed down the left, as Bolton looked to finish the game off by hitting City on the break. The Bolton man drove into the area and fired the ball across for Davies, but Dunne got their first and was unlucky to see the ball ricochet off his legs and into the net. In fairness to the City skipper, if he didn’t do it, then Davies would have done.
It was another game that City had the chances to win, a game that City should have controlled, but, ultimately, another game that City have lost away from home. Mark Hughes will have his work cut out to get the blues to replicate their home performances when on the road. The result flattered Bolton somewhat, but City have no excuses again.