Bolton Wanderers have a long-awaited home win and renewed grounds for optimism. They remain in the relegation zone, but, courtesy of goals from Kevin Davies, Chris Eagles and Ivan Klasnic, they have helped to exorcise the ghosts of last season's most damaging day.
Coyle delighted as payback has Bolton on 'upward spiral'
Bolton // Retribution is rarely as glorious. Bolton Wanderers have their revenge, a long-awaited home win and renewed grounds for optimism.
They remain in the relegation zone, but, courtesy of goals from Kevin Davies, Chris Eagles and Ivan Klasnic, they have helped to exorcise the ghosts of last season's most damaging day.
It is unusual that one result brings such a stark turnaround but since that 5-0 hammering, Bolton's form had been horrific: 13 defeats in 16 league games, including eight in the last nine, since the Wembley humiliation and seven in a row on their own turf.
Having gone from free-flowing to freefall, they made the return journey within the space of 90 minutes.
Once again, they resembled the side who surged into the Premier League's top four only 12 months ago.
"We had our day at Wembley," said Stoke's Tony Pulis. "They had their day today."
"There's no getting away from the level of performance and how crucial the win was," Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager said.
"It catapults us in among seven or eight teams [above Bolton] and puts us in an upward spiral."
His Stoke counterpart was altogether less impressed.
"No excuses whatsoever," Pulis said. "That was in the bottom three or four performances in my eight-and-a-half years at this football club.
"We were very, very poor. We never competed." While Stoke have a reputation as obdurate opponents, this was an ideal time to face them. Bolton's first game in eight days was Stoke's third in seven.
But Asmir Begovic was spared the 5,000-mile round journey to Tel Aviv for Thursday's Europa League game against Maccabi and he returned to gift Bolton two goals.
Meetings of these two clubs produce harrowing memories; Wanderers were given cause to wince at Wembley, while Begovic had reasons to regret yesterday's game.
As much as Coyle, who made five changes, recalling two strikers, who both scored, and giving the composed 20-year-old Joe Riley a league debut in a defence that kept a rare clean sheet, was a contributor to victory, and terrific as Klasnic and Eagles were, Begovic was the unfortunate instigator of Stoke's downfall.
Thanks to him, Bolton were ahead after 84 seconds. When Glenn Whelan misplaced an attempted clearance, Begovic handled it unwisely and, it seemed, unnecessarily.
Backpass, ruled Howard Webb, the referee, and before Stoke had started to protest, Klasnic had plucked the ball from Begovic's grasp and rolled it to Kevin Davies, presenting the captain with an open goal. He did not miss.
"Whether the first goal was a backpass or not, it doesn't matter," Pulis said.
"We have got so much time to right the wrong."
Instead, they compounded it. Begovic's second mistake was punished as efficiently as the first.
As Klasnic and Robert Huth chased a long ball, the latter prodded it back to his goalkeeper. Granted the chance to clear, Begovic miscued, only finding Eagles.
While the angle was awkward for the winger, he is a fine technician and duly picked out the far corner of the net before the diving Begovic could get there.
The goalkeeper was the prime culprit, but not the only one. Stoke's sloppiness was summed up by the third goal.
Huth's header, rather than clearing his lines, struck Eagles. He found Paul Robinson who, in turn, picked out Klasnic. The Croatian arrowed a shot into the far corner, Begovic applying a touch without managing to push it wide.
Yet a tale of embarrassment for one side offered examples of excellence for the other.
"The quality of some of our goals was there for everybody to see," Coyle said.
That was apparent especially in the fourth, converted stylishly by Eagles, the deftest of dinks clearing the diving Begovic after Klasnic - almost inevitably - had supplied him.
That was the fourth goal in which the Croatian was involved; and soon came the fifth as Eagles took a corner that David Wheater headed on and Klasnic glanced over the line.
"Eagles was outstanding from start to finish," Coyle added. "It's lovely to be clinical the way some of the elite clubs have been against us."
His side conceded five at the Reebok Stadium to both Manchester United and Chelsea.
Instead, they averted setting an unwanted record of becoming the first top-flight side to lose their opening six home league games of a season.
"That must be the catalyst for us to move forward," Coyle said. They look back in anger at Wembley no more.
-- RICHARD JOLLY
McCARTHY BUOYED BY VICTORY
Jamie O’Hara’s opener for the Molineux side was cancelled out by Ben Watson, following up his own saved penalty, before second-half goals by David Edwards and Stephen Ward clinched victory.
It was Wolves’ first win in nine games and consigned Wigan, the league’s bottom team, to an eight successive loss.
McCarthy said: “We’ve been struggling of late and to get three points off our competitors at the bottom is important.”
McCarthy has been subject to abuse by some fans and he paid tribute to his team.
“I think the players go about their jobs in a proper manner and they did that again today. I am delighted for the players – we’ve all been getting a bit.”
FRIEDEL SAVES TOTTENHAM
Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, last night praised Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Brad Friedel as the visitors survived a second-half onslaught at Craven Cottage to deny the home side against the Dutchman’s former club.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon struck to give Spurs a commanding interval lead in a lively London derby, but they were overrun when play resumed.
Fulham dominated the second half with Younes Kaboul’s 57th-minute own goal the direct result of relentless pressure from the rampant home side.
But despite their overwhelming superiority, the Cottagers were unable to secure the equaliser after failing to convert a series of chances, thanks in no small part to the form of Friedel.
After the match, Jol said: “He [Friedel] was probably the best player on the pitch. We had 26 or 30 attempts on goal after half time and yet we just couldn’t sneak one in.
"We deserved at least a point, for sure. At least a point.”
Controversy reigned during a chaotic five-minute spell of injury time when Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker clearly handled the ball, but referee Peter Walton declined to award a penalty.
Luka Modric then cleared a late effort off the line.
To rub salt into the wound, substitute Jermain Defoe scored with virtually the last kick of the game.
Jol will have felt the disappointment more than anyone as he oversaw his first encounter against his former paymasters since leaving White Hart Lane in acrimonious circumstances three years ago.
The victory was Spurs’ seventh in eight games and places them on the cusp of the Champions League spots with only goal difference separating them from Chelsea.
Tottenham still have a game in hand over their London rivals.
Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, watching from home as he continues his recovery from a heart procedure, will be content with the three points but this was not the Tottenham that dazzled against Queens Park Rangers.
Sunday they rode their luck, as Friedel concurred.
“Those were not bread-and-butter saves I was making, it all got a bit hectic towards the end,” he said. “[But] we can do the dirty stuff in games, the ‘roll your sleeves up’ stuff, and we proved that in this game.
"Everyone knows we can play but you have to be able to do the dirty stuff as well and we showed we are capable of that.”