West Ham United 1-3 Bolton Wanderers
West Ham United's magnificent home form came to an end on Sunday afternoon when Kevin Davies, Gary Cahill and Matthew Taylor struck to give the visitors a first away win this campaign.
Bolton shocked the home support with two quick-fire goals on the half-hour mark. Davies took advantage of a mix-up involving Robert Green to give them the lead in the 30th minute and Cahill doubled the advantage four minutes later when he finished after the United goalkeeper had superbly saved a Gretar Steinsson volley. Carlton Cole got the home side back in the contest but a late free-kick from Matt Taylor ended their hopes.
Gianfranco Zola had the luxury of naming the same starting XI for the third straight league game. Bolton were also unchanged, selecting the same side that lost 2-0 to Manchester United last weekend. The hosts were looking for a third straight win in the league for the first time since the end of the 2006/07 season with the added incentive that if they succeeded they would move to the top of the Barclays Premier League - albeit temporarily before the results of the later games were known.
The rain that had been drenching east London had cleared just in time for the match to get underway at 1.30pm, although the pitch was still bearing the signs with a lot water on the playing surface. Perhaps this explained the cautious opening couple of minutes as both teams carefully sought to keep the ball. Herita Ilunga was the first to enjoy possession in a threatening area and his trickery won a free-kick near the 18-yard box. Julien Faubert curled it round the wall but Jaaskelainen smothered it comfortably.
Mark Noble received an early caution - going in Mike Dean's notebook after catching Steinsson late. The resulting free-kick forced Ilunga to make a vital headed clearance. Cole had gone into the match in red-hot form and his confidence appeared high as he turned his marker and tired his luck from 25 yards. Almost instantly Bolton broke away and Johan Elmander found himself with a clear sight of Green's goal but Wanderers' record signing could only fire tamely at United's No1.
Ilunga was having a lively opening quarter on an hour and another surge down the left saw him burst dangerously into the Bolton penalty area. His cross to the far post was just long for his team-mates.
As expected the visitor's early attacks mainly involved high balls into the penalty area but Matthew Upson and, in particular, Lucas Neill seemed up to anything thrown at them. The pair helped United deal with four straight corners and when they finally got the ball back, a classic break involving Mark Noble, Scott Parker and David Di Michele let the Italian curl a left-footed shot from the corner of the area just wide.
The home side would have been frustrated to not be in front when Davies gave Bolton the lead. Green came out to the edge of the area to claim a long ball but could not hold on and it fell to the feet of the No14 who prodded it into the unguarded net. Noble almost restored parity straight away but his free-kick went just over.
Bolton then extended their lead two minutes later. A free-kick from the right was volleyed goalwards by Steinsson. Green saved well but could not hold on and Cahill followed up to force the ball over the line.
The second goal was a body blow to United, who had started so brightly. To compound matters five minutes before the break, Ilunga, who had impressed, had to leave the field for five minutes for treatment to an arm injury. Upson headed over as United tried to get one back but it was the visitors who went in two up at half-time.
The first effort of the second half saw Cole's deflected shot from 20 yards superbly tipped on to the post by Jaaskelainen. Faubert was then booked for arguing a bit too strongly about a decision and in the 54th minute Di Michele made way for Craig Bellamy as Zola looked to add some extra pace up front.
Cole got United back in the game in the 69th minute. A corner from the right was headed goalwards by Upson and the striker got to it ahead of the Bolton keeper to head in off the crossbar. The home support amongst the 33,715 in the Boleyn Ground responded by roaring the team on and Behrami was inches away from equalising a minute later with a drive from 20 yards.
Etherington made way for Sears, who struck four goals in midweek, as the game entered its final stages but it was Bolton who had the final word. Substitute Taylor, on for Elmander, converted a fierce free-kick from the right that Green could do nothing about. Parker, Cole and Andy O Brien all received late bookings as United's great form at home came to an end.