Bolton Wanderers 5 Aston Villa 2

Last updated : 21 January 2004 By Mark Heys
Bolton Wanderers captain Jay-Jay Okocha inspired his team with two wonderful free-kicks which were to send a shiver down the spine of any Aston Villa supporter as the Trotters gained the advantage in the Carling Cup Semi Final First leg tie against the Midlands side.

The home side where superb and well worthy of their three goal advantage going into the second leg at Villa Park next week. The first twenty minutes saw an explosion of goals as Sam Allardyce's side came out of the traps quicker than an Olympic Gold Medalist.

It took Okocha just two minutes to give Bolton the lead when he curled a sublime free kick in the bottom right hand corner which left the Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen stuck to the spot.

The excellent Kevin Davies and Youri Djorkaeff then combined but the Frenchman could not convert Davies' flick on past Sorensen who was able to gather the ball back at the second attempt.

Kevin Nolan doubled the Wanderers advantage on eight minutes when he found his run unchallenged and the England U21 star was able to make room for himself in the area after wrong footing Villa defender Olaf Mellberg to fire the ball under the despairing Sorensen into the left hand corner.

Then came the third on the quarter hour mark, Davies' flick on was met acrobatically by the recalled Greek international Stelios Giannakopoulos who sent his overhead kick sailing past Sorensen to send everyone into disbeleif at the scoreline.

The away side seemed to channel everything through dangerman Juan Pablo Angel and it was he who reduced the defacit when his shot/cross from the right hand side was to sail over the Wanderers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who found himself slightly out of position as he was expecting the cross.

The goal seemed to pick the Midlands side up a little bit and Lee Hendrie tested Jaaskelainen with a long range effort which the Finn could only parry.

Jay-Jay Okocha then had two chances to increase the lead shortly before half time as the Nigerian international looked to keep the tempo at a high pace, however both his shots sailed wide and Bolton went in at the half time interval 3-1 up and looking very good for the lead.

Shortly after half time Man of the Match Okocha was again involved as both he and the equally impressive Youri Djorkaeff where foiled by the Villa defence. Okocha saw his shot blocked bravely by Olaf Mellberg and the Swedish defender had to leave the field to be replaced by former Manchester United defender Ronny Johnsen following the incident.

On 56 minutes referee Paul Durkin and his assistants caused controversy when they failed to spot the Villa striker Angel in an offside position. Darius Vassell raced clear to set up Angel who scored from close range much to the protests of the Wanderers players and supporters who felt the South American was in an offside position when the ball was played. However that said the goal stood and Villa where back in with a shout in the game.

It wasn't until 15 minutes from the end that Bolton scored again, Youri Djorkaeff whipped in a left footed corner kick which was powerfully headed home by compatriot Bruno N'Gotty to make the score 4-2 to the home side.

A few minutes later Okocha once again showed his magic when a free kick on the left edge of Villa's penalty area was thundered home by the Wanderers captain for the fifth and final goal of the game for Bolton. A perfect send off by the magical midfielder who will now be missing from the team due to commitments in the African Cup of Nations. However his performance as well as other members of the team such as Kevin Davies, Youri Djorkaeff and Bruno N'Gotty has set the standard for a very interesting second leg next week which has put the Lancashire side on the verges of their first major final in eight years and their second visit to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.