Bolton spared as Angel squanders spot-kick
Aston Villa 1 Bolton 1
Jussi Jaaskelainen saved a late penalty from Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel to earn Bolton a share of the spoils at Villa Park in a Premiership encounter which only came to life during the second half.
Angel had brought Villa back on terms with a superb goal - his seventh of the campaign - to cancel out Kevin Nolan's effort at the start of the second half. But he went from hero to villain after Ivan Campo had been adjudged to have fouled him when Jaaskelainen kept out his spot-kick away to his left.
Villa dominated the second 45 minutes in terms of possession, but Bolton held firm with Simon Charlton a solid performer in their back four. England will be hoping Darius Vassell has better fortune in front of goal if he is drafted in as injury doubt Michael Owen's replacement for the vital Euro qualifier with Turkey.
Vassell - the obvious player to fill Owen's shoes if Sven-Goran Eriksson is looking to exploit the Turks with raw pace - could have claimed the match ball after having three golden opportunities. But he was twice foiled by Jaaskelainen and saw another attempt crash against the woodwork on an afternoon of frustration for David O'Leary's side.
Villa were looking to defend their unbeaten home record, but the first half only occasionally flickered into life and was littered with many misplaced passes and a lack of creativity. But after 15 minutes, only the woodwork prevented Angel, who had been guilty of a trio of glaring misses at Chelsea last weekend, from putting Villa into the lead. His curling 20-yard effort from the left side of the penalty area beat Jaaskelainen, but cannoned off the crossbar to safety.
Gavin McCann seized on the loose ball out on the right flank and again Angel came close when he sent a glancing header just wide. Jaaskelainen dealt easily enough with another Angel free-kick and it was some 37 minutes before Bolton had a sniff of a goal.
That was when Jay-Jay Okocha cut in from the right and was only just too high with a rasping 20-yard effort. Vassell, restored to the starting line-up for the first time since his pelvic operation, had a rare half chance when Gareth Barry played the ball over the top for him to race onto. But the ball would not sit up nicely for the England striker and his eventual shot flew high over Jaaskelainen's crossbar.
In first half injury-time, Bolton came within inches of taking the lead. Kevin Nolan flicked the ball into the path of Stelios Giannakopoulus. The Greek striker seemed certain to score and connected well enough with his shot, but it flew inches wide of the post and left Bolton manager Sam Allardyce holding his head in frustration.
Angel's free-kick apart, there was precious little else to enthuse about in the opening 45 minutes, with the half-time whistle being greeted by boos from sections of the Holte End.
Villa were forced into a half-time substitution with goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen forced out of the action with a side strain and replaced by Stefan Postma. But Postma's first task after a mere 52 seconds was to pick the ball out of the net as Nolan gave Bolton the lead. Charlton's ball into the danger area was flicked on by Kevin Davies to Nolan, who turned past Alpay and drove a fierce shot across Postma into the far corner.
Postma was again in the thick of the action to turn a decent effort from Per Frandsen around the post. And, from the resulting corner, the Dutch keeper was relieved to see Ivan Campo glance a close-range header across the face of goal.
But Villa gradually fought back and Angel's superb strike brought them back on level terms after 58 minutes. Gareth Barry and Lee Hendrie were involved in the build-up before Angel curled a wonderful shot past Jaaskelainen from the edge of the area. Villa were now turning the screw and Vassell twice went close to putting them in front.
First Jaaskelainen blocked a low drive from the England striker, who then sent a header crashing against the post from Hendrie's centre. But Bolton still looked dangerous on the break and Davies screwed his shot inches wide of the far post when well placed. Then came Angel's great chance to grab the glory, but his spot-kick was at just the right height for Jaaskelainen to keep out and it ended honours even.