Young gets Villa back on track
Ashley Young netted the winner as Aston Villa got back on track with a 1-0 victory at Bolton to ease the pain of their mauling at Chelsea. Young scored what proved to be the winner in the 11th minute with his ninth goal of the season to revive Villa's faint hopes of Champions League football next season. Bolton had their chances to force an equaliser but instead succumbed to a second successive defeat at the Reebok Stadium that keeps them staring over their shoulders at the relegation zone. Villa will surely now head into next weekend's FA Cup semi-final with revenge on their mind after suffering the worst Premier League defeat in their history last Saturday in losing 7-1 to Chelsea. In a remarkably open 45 minutes, which perhaps highlighted why these two sides conceded 11 goals between them last weekend, it was surprising only Young ended up on the scoresheet. Prior to his opener, Bolton's Israeli midfielder Tamir Cohen twice rifled in shots from the edge of the area, the first narrowly wide and the second forcing Brad Friedel into a reaction block low down at his right-hand post. But after Wanderers gave away four goals to Manchester United seven days ago, a result that flattered Sir Alex Ferguson's side, Owen Coyle must have feared the worst when Young struck with Villa's opening salvo. It was Young who set Villa on their way to a 5-1 rout when these two sides last met in November, on this occasion taking just six further minutes to get off the mark than at Villa Park. Following a neat exchange of passes down the left, Stephen Warnock split two Bolton defenders in front of him with an incisive through-ball. With space in front of him, Young then picked his spot from 13 yards, curling a sweet right-foot effort beyond the despairing grasp of Jussi Jaaskelainen and inside his left-hand post. Far from folding, Bolton proceeded to carve out further chances as they went in search of an immediate riposte, initially via their on-loan star Jack Wilshere. Collecting a loose ball on the edge of the area, the young Arsenal midfielder neatly controlled before sending an 18-yard left-foot strike narrowly wide. Villa then defended desperately for a few minutes, the culmination of which saw Richard Dunne bravely throwing his body in front of a rasping drive from Fabrice Muamba. Villa then dominated the remainder of the half, and should have headed into the break with a two-goal cushion. Jaaskelainen, however, stood defiant, initially tipping over a rising drive from Gabriel Agbonlahor. That was swiftly followed by a sweeping Villa move, with the key a raking cross-field ball from Agbonlahor to Young. The winger, attacking from the right, surged his way into the area and went for glory, rather than picking out one of his team-mates, with a drive that stung the fingers of Jaaskelainen. Although the Finnish goalkeeper could only push the shot away, so allowing Stiliyan Petrov a free header, the Villa captain tamely nodded the ball back into the grateful arms of Bolton's number one. Two minutes from the interval Young then went for a repeat of his early goal, only to curl another right-foot effort two yards wide from an almost identical position. Sadly, after the free-flowing entertainment of the first half, the second was barely of similar value, even though the opening few minutes suggested otherwise. The visitors came closest via the second of two early corners after Stewart Downing had seen a 25-yard free-kick deflect narrowly wide. But from a near-post flick to a Young delivery, Downing's stooping header cleared the crossbar by inches. As both sides visibly tired there was a flurry of substitutions, one of which saw Ivan Klasnic replace Johan Elmander in Bolton's attack. The on-loan Croatian almost conjured an equaliser midway through the half, only for Friedel to block at his feet after he forced his way into the six-yard box. Jaaskelainen showed similar bravery at the other end in the 78th minute as one of Villa's substitutes, Emile Heskey, attempted to turn home a low ball into the near post from Young. Agbonlahor should have put the game beyond reach in the 83rd minute after breaking from a drop-ball, only to steer a low effort wide as Jaaskelainen raced off his line. That was as good as it got, with more action in the moments following the final whistle as players from both sides pushed and jostled one another, resulting in Klasnic and Wilshere earning yellow cards.
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