Aston Villa 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

Last updated : 28 January 2004 By Mark Heys
Bolton Wanderers have progressed through to their first domestic cup final in nearly eight years and will be taking place in this year's Carling Cup Final despite a spirited second leg effort from Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Goals from Thomas Hitzlsperger and Jay-Lloyd Samuel threatened to take away some of the advantage which Wanderers had gained through their magnificent 5-2 win in the first leg at the Reebok Stadium last week but Wanderers kept going and managed to book their place at the Millennium Stadium next month where they await the winners of the Middlesbrough versus Arsenal tie tommorow night where Boro are currently in the driving seat.

Sam Allardyce brought in both Per Frandsen and Ibrahim Ba for Jay-Jay Okocha and Kevin Nolan who where both unavailable. Simon Charlton replaced Anthony Barness at left-back whilst youngster Ricardo Vaz-Te was named on the substitutes bench.

The game started out at a pretty even rate and the Bolton defender Nicky Hunt found himself in a good shooting position after only two minutes, however the young full back was on his wrong foot and was unable to really trouble the Aston Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

A minute later at the other end Jussi Jaaskelainen managed to save well for Wanderers from Villa forward Darius Vassell in the six yard area following a good knock down by the Villa captain Gareth Barry.

On eight minutes Per Frandsen was allowed space to run into however he saw his 40-yard effort just sail over the bar of compatriot Sorensen in the Villans goal.

It was the home side who drew first blood on ten minutes. Ivan Campo had fouled the lanky Villa striker Peter Crouch and Thomas Hitzlsperger converted the resulting free-kick in a similar style to the first Jay-Jay Okocha strike a week ago.

Villa then wanted the Bolton defender Emerson Thome sent off as he appeared to foul Darius Vassell as the last man and referee Steve Bennett saw fit to show the big Brazilian a yellow card and replays show that on reflection this was about fair as Vassell had come accross Thome to play for the foul.

The first half was a flurry of bookings with Emerson Thome and Nicky Hunt booked for Bolton and Jay-Lloyd Samuel, Darius Vassell and Gavin McCann cautioned for the home side, all for fouls on their opposing numbers. Many could argue that Bennett was a bit card happy but in the end his decisions where about right.

Gareth Barry blazed over for the Midlands side on 37 minutes after good work down the left hand side from Jay-Lloyd Samuel. However what was to follow in the minute after could be from a Villa point of view something which changed the game.

Gavin McCann found himself in a one on situation with the Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and a raised boot caught the Finnish international right on his chest which lead to referee Bennett wanting a word with the player, however the former Everton and Sunderland player did not help his cause when he slapped the Bolton defender Thome which immediately resulted in a straight red card for the once capped England player. However it probably would have been an inevitable red anyway for the foul but McCann's stupidity afterwards put his team at a disadvantage for the second half.

Both sides made changes shortly after half time with the injured Lee Hendrie coming off to be replaced by Peter Whittingham for Aston Villa and the youngster almost made an immediate impact but he saw his left footed volley sail wide of Jaaskelainen's post whilst Anthony Barness entered the arena to replace Simon Charlton for Bolton.

With 15 minutes remaining Sam Allardyce's team probably had their best chance of the game when Ivan Campo's crossfield ball found the Bolton striker Kevin Davies and the former Southampton man was unlucky to see his shot sail just wide of Sorensen's right hand post.

Villa started to push forward and moved Dion Dublin up front alongside both Darius Vassell and Peter Crouch and on 87 minutes it was the aeriel power of Crouch which paid divedends for his side as the ball found its way through to the Villa full back Samuel who drilled the ball in the net to give the home side hope.

However despite a penalty claim by the Midlanders after the ball had hit Ivan Campo's shoulder, referee Bennett brought the game to a close and Wanderers where jubilant despite the defeat and will now face a date in Cardiff for next months final but before then they must tackle an important league match against Charlton Athletic at The Valley this weekend. This will not stop anyone connected with the club raising a glass or two in appreciation for their efforts in what over two legs and indeed the season has been a well earned success for Bolton Wanderers Football Club and indeed the town itself.

SEE YOU IN CARDIFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!