News24

Blake's cracker caps fightback

2010-08-29 17:19

Bolton - Robbie Blake capped a superb fightback by 10-man Bolton as his late free-kick rescued a 2-2 draw against Birmingham on Sunday.

Owen Coyle's side looked in deep trouble as Roger Johnson and Craig Gardner scored for Birmingham either side of Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen's red card for violent conduct.

But Johnson then gave away a penalty which Kevin Davies converted to reduce the deficit with 20 minutes to go, setting the stage for substitute Blake to curl home his first goal for the club.

The dramatic finish at the Reebok Stadium maintained Bolton's unbeaten start to the season and left Birmingham rueing their failure to push home their numerical advantage.

It was the Bolton defence that looked their weak link early on as Birmingham took the lead in the fourth minute with a flowing move.

Lee Bowyer ran onto James McFadden's pass and pulled the ball back from the byline to Cameron Jerome, whose flick was met by Johnson with a sliding finish from close-range.

It was Johnson's first goal for the club since the defender's move from Cardiff in July 2009.

While that was a moment for the purists to enjoy, Bolton took the route one approach as the hosts nearly fashioned a more rudimentary equaliser moments later.

Davies rose highest to flick on a long punt and Johan Elmander burst into the area, only to lose his composure at the crucial moment and blazed well over the bar.

Birmingham keeper Ben Foster made a good stop to keep out Stuart Holden's free-kick before McFadden shot straight at Jaaskelainen when well placed.

The game exploded in the 37th minute when Jaaskelainen was dismissed after being knocked over as Johnson challenged for the ball.

When he got up the Finland international completely over-reacted as he slapped Johnson in the face, leaving referee Kevin Friend with no option but to show a red card.

Birmingham looked set to take advantage when Alex McLeish's team increased their lead in the 50th minute.

Jerome looked fractionally offside as McFadden crossed into the area but the flag stayed down as the striker headed back across the six-yard box for Gardner to prod home at the second attempt.

But Bolton kept plugging away and the turning point came when Johnson gave the hosts a lifeline in the 71st minute by climbing on Davies in the penalty area.

Davies took the penalty himself and calmly stroked the spot-kick into the roof of the net.

Suddenly Bolton had some momentum and Birmingham seemed unsure how to respond.

Blake made them pay in the 81st minute as, from a centre position 20 yards from goal, he curled a superb free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the goal to snatch a late leveller.

AFP