This game was about more than football, even though three points for either team would mean being closer to safety or the Champions League...
This game was about more than football, even though three points for either team would mean being closer to safety or the Champions League. The reason behind this was the special guest at the game, Fabrice Muamba. Making his first public appearance and attending a football match since the almost fateful night at White Hart Lane a month and a half ago. Fabrice walked onto the pitch before kick-off with tears in his eyes and with over twenty-two thousand football fans singing his name. Both Bolton and Spurs, you could tell he was emotionally overwhelmed and to be honest watching it who wouldn’t feel good about the boy’s recovery, incredible really.
We were looking for our first victory away at Bolton since 1996 when they were in their old ground, Burnden Park. Before the game with the distractions of the England job gone and the confidence gained from the Blackburn game I believed we would get a positive result, and indeed it turned out that way even though the odds were against us.
Onto the game itself and to be honest the first 35 minutes went by without any notable events, an odd corner, offside or wild shot. We didn’t have to wait long though for the game to spring to life and in the 36th minute it exploded like a cheap Chinese firework. Van Der Vaart took a corner won by Sandro from the left and pulls it back to Luka Modric standing in a Scholes-esque position on the edge of the area. The little Croat took the ball on his chest, let the ball bounce once in front of him then let fly with a wonderful right footed (with a bit of fade) half volley into the top right hand corner of the goal. Bogdan in the Bolton goal had no chance and by the time he had realised what had happened the Spurs players were mobbing Luka on the touchline. The goal was similar to the one he scored against Liverpool earlier on in the season, and both times he has hit the ball, they have stayed hit. It’s just a shame we can’t see more of this kind of shooting from our little puppeteer.
Again the game died down a little towards and up to half time, with only really Spurs possession to be talked about. So in we went to the second half and it took a fresher looking Bolton six minutes to equalise on the night. From a throw in down the right side one of the Bolton players flicked the ball on through to David N'Gog in the area. Luka who was meant to be tracking Nigel Reo-Coker's run in behind. He unfortunately fell asleep and let him go, N'Gog then impressively back heeled the ball into the path of Reo-Coker who finished coolly into the far corner under Brad Friedel.
This then gave Bolton the confidence to go forward and if any team was going to score if definitely looked like they were favourites. So for ten minutes we absorbed this pressure, nearly coming unstuck a few times and falling behind. However football is a funny old game and when we broke quickly with some neat interchange play between Bale and Rafa we took the lead. Bale made one his trademark runs down the left up against the right back but instead of putting it across the corridor of uncertainty between the defenders and the goalkeeper he pulled it back to Rafa who confidently finished first time with his left across the keeper into the bottom right hand corner.
Back in the lead and confidence riding high we only had to wait another two minutes for our third to come and basically secure the three points. This time Luka was involved, after having picking up the ball in the centre of the pitch he played a delicious razor sharp ball through in behind the left back that Lennon ran onto. Lennon then put on the afterburners, and unselfishly squared the ball to Adebayor for his first of the night. Great team goal, and I would love see Lennon and Bale making more runs like that because when you have players like Luka and Rafa in your team you know they can make those passes.
The last goal that really killed off the game completely came in the 69th minute, when Bale broke through the gap in between the Bolton midfield and defence. He simply played a soft ball to his left for the onside Adebayor who proceeded to take the ball round the Bolton keeper and finish easily with his preferred right foot. There were no more goals in the game, but I did feel that if we had pushed ourselves we could have got a couple of more. In the end though a very good performance, no distractions and a 4 - 1 win that takes us closer to fourth position... More on that to follow.
With Newcastle beating Chelsea and us beating Bolton it looks almost certain it’s going to be one of us who’s going to finish fourth or maybe chase down Arsenal in third. I believe we will win both our remaining games and being only a point behind Arsenal any slip up at home to Norwich and away against West Brom on the final day of the season would give us that third place. However none of this may not matter because if Chelsea were to finish outside the top four, and they win the Champions League, the fourth spot (if we were to finish in that position) in the Premier League will lose their CL route and be dropped down into the less glamorous Europa League.
MOTM – Luka Modric. Incredible display, not only his goal that nearly broke the net but his tireless work and the cutting edge through ball played to Lennon to set him free and play in Adebayor for our third. He really pulled all the strings in the midfield and Sandro looked very comfortable beside him, which was good to see. The only negative part of his game was that he was the player guilty of letting Reo-Coker go for the Bolton goal, but no one’s perfect so I think we can forgive the little guy. Also seemed to be playing with a smile on his face again, which could bode well for the future.