It was two goals and a straight red for Robbie Keane as three points were banked at the expence of Bolton at the Lane.
It was two goals and a straight red for Robbie Keane as three points were banked at the expence of Bolton at the Lane.With the team 3-0 to the good at the time, Keane was punished in the wake of a goalline clearance, which referee Graham Poll deemed to be with the use of a hand or arm.
Keane had made it 11 goals for the season with his double strike and you couldn't have ruled out a hat-trick on a day where the team made it three wins in a week with the 4-1 win.
With just one change made to the starting XI that began at Goodison Park in midweek, the team were quickly on the offensive with Ricardo Rocha - in for the injured Anthony Gardner - cleverly losing his man in deep before setting Aaron Lennon off on a dash that would see the England man chopped down by Abdoulaye Faye. The set piece routine involving Jermaine Jenas and Michael Dawson, unfortunately, did not come off.
The breakthrough was made on 11 minutes from a Paul Robinson clearance that was fielded by Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian knocked on into the path of Keane to the left of the area and, from quite a tight angle, the Irishman slammed the ball into the near post where it beat Jussi Jaaskelainen, clipped the frame of the goal and travelled into the other side of the net.
Robinson reacted superbly to keep out a Stelios header at the other end before the advantage was doubled after 18 minutes. Berbatov beat Faye to cushion the ball in the direction of Keane, who used the outside of his boot to test Jaaskelainen, with the goalkeeper only able to parry his effort. Waiting to pounce in the rebound was Jenas to make it three goals in three games.
It was then treble joy just three minutes later when Pascal Chimbonda surged forward down the right and delivered a low cross to the near post where Keane was waiting to divert the ball past a bemused Jaaskelainen.
Those at the Lane, who gave a rousing reception to Glenn Hoddle on the pitch before kick-off, were in fine voice, while Bolton at this point must have wished they were still in warm weather training in Tenerife.
They would have felt a little better about things on 36 minutes when after something of a penalty area melee, an Ivan Campo header was cleared off the line by Keane - with his hand in the opinion of referee Mr Poll, who flashed a straight red card at the two-goal striker.
To his obvious distress, Keane's afternoon was over and we faced the prospect of a visibly lifted Bolton side with 10 men for the rest of the first and whole of the second half.
It could have been four before the interval when Teemu Taino cantered forward on a solo mission and drilled in a shot that it took the legs of Campo to divert wide.
The team regained a good degree of composure early in the second period and were straight on the front foot with a solid spell of possession at a time when Bolton would have been seeking to be well in charge of events.
It could have been four after 56 minutes when Berbatov made a good connection with a Jenas free-kick from the right, but his header just cleared the crossbar with Jaaskelainen motionless. Berbatov then ran out of space after sprinting onto a Tainio throughball, he attempted to make himself a yard on his marker in front of goal but ended up in retreat.
It was a first class response to the setback of a reduction in numbers and Bolton were again looking bereft of ideas. It saw the introduction of Henrik Pedersen by Sam Allardyce, which was soon followed by a change of our own with Tainio being replaced by Steed Malbranque.
Robinson saved excellently low to his left from Nicolas Anelka with 20 minutes remaining before Berbatov did so well to tee up Jenas for a drive that Jaaskelainen blocked and Malbranque was not far off pouncing on the rebound.
Malbranque then dispossessed Meite but his shot cannoned off the knee of Campo and just over, then another sub, Ricardo Vaz Te, got the last head on some aerial ping-pong at our end that nearly proved costly.
It must be recorded that Berbatov was absolutely awesome in battling alone in attack. His workrate could not be faulted and his ability to hold out the ball and create was second to none. The fans at the Lane were not slow to voice their appreciation.
The second half could have been a backs to the wall, nail biting 45 minutes, bu the application of Berbatov and co made it so you felt that more goals were on the way, rather than simply retaining advantage with ten men.
It turned out that way in stoppage time when Malbranque broke down the right and centred to where Lennon was waiting to apply the final touch for a richly deserved fourth goal.
So after an energy sapping game, that made it six points and progress in the FA Cup this week, the team will be content in the knowledge that there is no midweek fixture awaiting and West Ham looms in seven days time.