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On This Day: Sporting CP v Bolton Wanderers

Six years passes in the blink of an eye

Evil villain Gary Megson finally got his wish on this day six years ago when his Bolton Wanderers side lost in Portugal against Sporting CP in the last 16 stage of the Uefa Cup. A Bolton goal was required following the 1-1 home draw, but a much-changed side struggled against the Portuguese giants.

In a game of few chances for the away side, Wanderers' own Portuguese man Ricardo Vaz Te would have been disappointed to have missed his side's best chance but drove a shot into the side-netting.

Much to the chagrin of the travelling Bolton fans (myself included), already-under-pressure manager Gary Megson had left seven available regular first-team players in England ahead of the weekend's relegation battle with Wigan Athetlic. His priority was clearly survival in the Premier League rather than the Uefa Cup but in spite of his despicable tactics, the much changed Wanderers side held their own for large parts of the game at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Sporting inevitably dominated the early stages, forcing Bolton keeper Ali Al Habsi to save well from Simon Vukcevic free-kick round his post before Vaz Te found the side-netting with an angled strike at the other end.

Working hard, the visitors made life very uncomfortable for Sporting, who lacked the quality to capitalise on Bolton's desire to get forward. Limiting the opposition to half chances, such as when Sporting worked the ball wide to winger Pereirinha, who whipped in a cross which Vukcevic flicked on and Russian midfielder Marat Izmailov steered over at the far post.

Stricken of any attacking intent by their clown of a manager, Bolton started to sit back more and more as they played on the counter-attack, while a wasteful Sporting saw and angled Leandro Romagnoli strike go straight to Al Habsi. This continued into the second half when Sporting were more concerned with not conceding and were reluctant to commit to many players forward.

They did have a well-struck Pereirinha strike comfortably saved but chances were at a premium at either end. Eventually, Bolton began to attempt a more expansive approach to the game with the prospect of being knocked out approaching with every passing minute, only to lack an incisive edge as Sporting comfortably held them at bay. Well, that and the manager choosing to leave our best players back in Bolton, the idiot.

The long balls with which Bolton tried to unsettle their opponents had little effect, while Vaz Te was ineffective as his pace was never allowed to have an impact by Sporting's tight defence.

The game wore on, and striker Liedson had a free shot on goal but his strike was straight at Al Habsi, though shortly after Pereirinha atoned for the miss when he found the far corner with a curling shot. The game petered out and Bolton were eliminated.

It was at this game that I first heard the 'Megson Out' chants....although tbf I had consumed that much Super Bock that I wasn't even sure what day of the week it was.

Bolton boss Gary Megson:
"I've said all along our main aim is to retain our place in the Premier League.

"In hindsight I still wouldn't change anything, and there's no sense of relief we are out either.

"We're disappointed. You only have to take a look at the players in the dressing room because we certainly didn't come here to get beat, but our priority has to be the Premier League.

"Now I expect all the players left behind to put a shift in at the JJB on Sunday, and hopefully get us a result."

Sporting: Rui Patricio, Abel, Tonel, Anderson Polga, Grimi, Joao Moutinho, Bruno Pereirinha, Izmailov (Gladstone 87), Romagnoli (Adrien Silva 75), Liedson, Vukcevic (Tiui 66).

Subs Not Used: Stojkovic, Ronny, Djalo, Farnerud. Booked: Joao Moutinho.

Goals: Bruno Pereirinha 85.

Bolton Wanderers: Al Habsi, Hunt, Cahill, Meite, Samuel, Joey O'Brien, Guthrie, Teymourian (Braaten 71), Giannakopoulos, Vaz Te, Helguson (Woolfe 76).

Subs Not Used: Walker, Harsanyi, Sinclair, Sissons, Jamieson. Booked: Teymourian, Guthrie.
Att: 22,031
Ref: Bertrand Layec (France).