UEFA Cup - Portugese Ref O'War
Date: Friday 17th February 2006The first thing that was noticed was the noise of the crowd, not the Boltonians but the French. They had come to make a statement and make one they did. Like them or hate them, they you would have thought Bolton were playing away if you had tuned in as a neutral. Kick off, and it was clear that our intention was to put them on the back foot and we did so for the first ten minutes, before they started to get themselves back in the match with some very dangerous breaks. Two good chances were presented to Taye Taiwo, the first being a long range shot that draw a comfortable save from Juusi, the second a real blistering shot that Jussi could only palm away. O’Brien was looking unusually nervous in the first half, gifting the ball to Marseille on two separate occasions with cross field passes he needn’t have made. Early in the game it was obvious that the Portuguese referee had been well and truly briefed on Kevin Davies, as he seamed to have his whistle in his mouth whenever the ball was within 20 yards of him. Our Kev wasn’t going to get any joy tonight. Forty minutes in came the most blatant penalty I think I have ever seen not given at the Reebok, as Dehu swooped the ball away from the Borg’s head. The referee was looking right at the incident so how he couldn’t see Dehu’s slam dunk is beyond me!! He even had the audacity to give us a corner which can only mean he clearly saw the ball was a good foot above the defenders head, yet he managed to put it out for a corner. Mind boggling!! The first half was pretty much a stale mate as both sides cancelled each other out, yet on the stroke of halftime Jay Jay had a great chance to put us in 1-0 to the good with a free kick just outside the box, unfortunately his shot had neither the direction or venom of his earlier effort, hardly testing the gobshite that was Bartez. Early in the second half a mix up between Jay Jay and Bruno let the ever dangerous Niang through on goal, he tried to round Jussi which brought a superb stop from, for me, the best keeper in the Premiership. Watching at home I was given the chance to see the save in slow motion, he really did take it right of his toes!! Yet again our substitutions in Europe made a massive difference, as Gary Speed returned from injury for a below par (but far from dreadful) Jay Jay. The difference was almost instant, as our midfield began to look controlled under Speed's marshalling. A few minutes later and Vaz Te came on for the almost invisible Borg, and again the difference was almost instant. A long punt by Jussi (I think) saw Vaz through on goal with only Barthez to beat, unfortunately he had his roller skates on again, and was unable to get a good contact with the ball, which give Barthez the chance to turn it round the post. Then right at the death Ricardo, through one of his rare bursts up field, threw in a peach of a cross for Stelios, it was almost exactly the same scenario that had seen us beat Arsenal a week before. Unfortunately the tiny Greek was unable to produce the end result that would have seen us going in the second leg 1-0 to the good. Altogether it was not a bad effort at all from our boys, we looked dangerous and should have come away with a victory against a big European side. After O’Brien had shaken off his earlier jitters, our back four looked as solid and composed as always. Gardner never got up field as much as he normally does, though I think this was through instruction then anything else. We may not have scored, but the important thing was that we didn’t concede that all important away goal either. We can now go to Marseille in the knowledge that any goal we score counts as two, and with our record of scoring away from home, that is a warming thought.