Bolton Wanderers climbed out of the drop zone with a vital win over relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers, in a game that lacked any real quality but will be long remembered for its controversy.
The match was decided by moments of poor decision making by the officials, with a QPR attempt that was clearly over the line not awarded, Djibril Cisse’s equaliser failing to be called back for offside and a late refusal of the visitors’ late penalty appeals grabbing the headlines.
Understandably given the pressure on both teams to deliver a victory to ease their relegation worries, it was a match that lacked individual brilliance or free-flowing football.
Bolton had the better of things early on, but QPR soon got their teeth into the game and began to dominate the possession. The hosts almost opened the scoring when Bobby Zamora got onto the end of a pass from strike partner Cisse and smashed the ball past Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan only to see the ball crash back off the crossbar.
Soon after, in the 19th minute, QPR felt they should have been ahead in the moment that will live on as the talking point of this match. Joey Barton’s inswinging corner was met by a powerful header from centre-half Clint Hill, whose effort powered towards goal but was clawed back and onto the bar by Bogdan. In real-time the effort looked to have gone in and QPR’s players clearly felt it was a goal, and indeed replays showed the header was at least a foot over the line before Bogdan could make the save. But referee Martin Atkinson and his assistant, who clearly should have had a good sight of the ball being over the line, did not award the goal and Hill was denied his first Premier League on his 400th career start.
The game then hit a bit of a lull with neither side able to deliver real quality, and QPR’s players clearly struggling to up their game as they clearly felt hard-done by from the earlier incident.
Bolton soon made their opponents pay, as Darren Pratley put the hosts 1-0 up eight minutes from half-time. Following an attacking free-kick Martin Petrov picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area and fed centre-back Tim Ream on the left wing. The American delivered an accurate floated cross, which had Sky pundit Ray Wilkins fooled that it was the winger Petrov who delivered the cross, to find Pratley outrageously unmarked from six yards out to nod the ball past Paddy Kenny.
The visitors almost bounced back before the break but Nedum Onuoha fired the ball straight at Bogdan having been played in on goal by Cisse. But Bolton held on to take a narrow 1-0 half-time lead.
The lead proved to be short lived as Cisse equalised in controversial style. Shaun Wright-Phillips’ defence splitting ball found it’s way to Cisse who ran clear of the defence and flicked the ball past Bogdan to score. But replays showed the striker was clearly offside.
QPR took heart from the equaliser and looked to capitalise on the momentum it brought them. Jamie Mackie almost put them ahead when shooting from 18 yards out, only to see his shot hit David Wheater’s head and fly wide.
The game seemed to be drifting into a share of the points until it burst into life in the last 5 minutes. On 86 minutes Bolton grabbed the lead when a piece of brilliance from livewire winger Ryo Miyaichi unlocked the QPR defence. The ball was floated into the winger, who brought the ball down and jinked across the defence with a series of touches on the outside of his right foot before sliding the ball through to substitute Ivan Klasnic. The Croatian striker coolly steered the ball past Kenny with a low left-footed strike that nestled into the bottom right corner to send the home support into raptures.
The Bolton side instantly looked massively nervous having found themselves in the lead and dropped deeper and deeper as QPR pushed for a late equaliser. The visitors again felt aggrieved when a frantic penalty box scramble culminated in Samba Diakite burst into the box and appeared to be felled by Nigel Reo-Coker. Replays showed the decision was probably too close to call, but Bolton couldn’t have grumbled had the referee pointed to the spot.
Wanderers just about hung on to seal a vital three points that should inspire confidence in the side with a series of winnable matches in their run-in to the end of the season. QPR on the other hand, now head into a string of matches against sides in the top half of the table, so the loss will be very hard to take – especially given its controversial nature.
Bolton: Bogdan; Steinsson, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts; Pratley (Klasnic 80), Reo-Coker, M Davies; Petrov (Eagles 71), Miyaichi; Ngog (Muamba 89). Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Knight, K Davies, Sordell.
Goals: Pratley (37), Klasnic (86)
QPR: Kenny; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Traore (Taiwo 79); Barton, Derry (Buzsaky 79), Diakite, Wright-Phillips (Mackie 80); Cisse, Zamora. Unused subs: Cerny, Gabbidon, Young, Bothroyd.
Goals: Cisse (48)