First things first. Josh Vela returned to the starting XI for the first time since he injured himself in the Carling Cup several months ago. That is certainly good news for the Bolton youngster, but all eyes were on USA International Stu Holden, who appeared in a first team squad for the first time in 18 months, and only the second time in 22 months.
Things were scrappy in the opening minutes. Bolton had more possession, but were not able to create any clear chances. Once the match passed the 20-minute-mark Sunderland came into it more decisively, although any threats they presented were from substantial distances. Of course, after Craig Gardner's goal in the first tie, we don't want to be too casual when they have the ball from 20 plus yards out. And Gardner was the danger man. Andy Lonergan was solid in his box, and made a good save to deny Gardner a few minutes before the halftime whistle.
The biggest applause of the first half was from 300 traveling Wanderers supporters the first time Stuart Holden warmed up. Holden must have enjoyed watching young Vela have a solid half in his return. Some of the passes were wayward, but he moved well and covered a lot of ground. He looked very fit considering he had been out for four months.
It was 0-0 at the half. Marvin Sordell moved well for Bolton, but his teammates just couldn't get him the ball. Craig Gardner was dangerous on free kicks for Sunderland, but that was really the only threat. If you had never watched a game of football with British managers before, you might have expected Martin O'Neill or Dougie Freedman to make changes at halftime. Of course they didn't.
Bolton came out the more aggressive side in the second half. Other than another Gardner free kick that went uncomfortably close, Wanderers were on top. Sordell saw more of the ball, and had a golden chance five minutes in. There was a hint of offside, and Marvin hit it straight at the keeper, perhaps expecting a flag from the referee's assistant.
A few minutes later it all happened as Darren Pratley received the ball in the penalty area. He was taken down by Jack Colback and the referee pointed to the spot. Keith Andrews was not involved tonight, so who would take the penalty kick? Mighty Marvin Sordell stepped up and calmly placed the ball right down the middle. Bolton took a 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.
And Sordell wasn't finished. Tyrone Mears played a good cross from the right channel and Marvin put it over the line. 2-0 to Bolton. Sordell on a hat trick. And then, in a burst of smoke and lightning, Stuart Holden appeared at the center of the pitch.
His first involvement was a tackle. And all was well. Bolton just had to hold on for 15 minutes plus stoppage time. Sunderland really started to press, but Bolton were still able to hold some possession. Darren Pratley and Jay Spearing, both of whom played very well, continued to cover a lot of ground. Holden started to expedite the passing, and the home side struggled to get the ball back.
Kevin Davies came on for Marvin Sordell, who had clearly played his best match as a Wanderer. The composure of the midfield, with new target Davies up top, frustrated the Black Cats. Super Kev won a big free kick in stoppage time that really pinned the Premier League side back.
The fourth referee signaled three minutes of stoppage time, but most of it was spent in Sunderland's half. Bolton are going through to the fourth round. They will face Everton.