Mon, May 05, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Diouf goal edges Bolton closer to survival

BATTLE FOR SURVIVALWhile the Trotters had cause to celebrate, Reading and Birmingham were bracing themselves for do-or-die games next weekend after losing

AFP , BOLTON, ENGLAND

Bolton’s Danny Guthrie gestures after their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland in Bolton, England, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Bolton edged closer to securing their Premier League survival after Gary Megson’s side beat Sunderland 2-0 on Saturday.

Wanderers are three points clear of the relegation zone thanks to El-Hadji Diouf’s first half strike and a Daryl Murphy own goal at the Reebok Stadium.

Megson’s team face Chelsea in their last match and could still be caught by Fulham and Reading if they lose, but Bolton’s superior goal difference means they are in pole position to retain their top-flight status.

It was fitting that Diouf should play a key role in Bolton’s crucial victory. The Senegal forward could have been making his last appearance at the Reebok after revealing that he wants to leave the club in the close season, so his first league goal since December was perfectly timed.

After Birmingham and Reading’s defeats earlier on Saturday, Bolton knew a win would lift them away from the drop zone and within touching distance of safety.

Bolton, who had taken seven points from their last three games to climb out of the bottom three, should have been ahead in the 28th minute.

Diouf found Davies unmarked at the far post but the former Blackburn forward couldn’t control his header and it whistled over.

Sunderland offered only a sporadic threat with only Kenwyne Jones’s shot from the edge of the penalty area testing Ali Al Habsi.

Bolton’s relentless pressing was starting to force Sunderland back and the hosts made the breakthrough in the 42nd minute.

Kevin Nolan’s cross picked out Diouf at the far post and he controlled with his first touch before curling a superb strike past Craig Gordon with his second.

Sunderland forward Murphy put the result beyond doubt in the 83rd minute when he headed a corner into his own net.

Andy Reid hacked it off the line but an eagle-eyed linesman confirmed the ball had crossed and Bolton could start to think about another year among English soccer’s elite.

Fulham took a huge stride towards Premier League survival with a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Birmingham.

Second-half goals from Brian McBride and Erik Nevland hoisted the Cottagers out of the bottom three for the first time since December while shoving City closer to the Championship.

A win at Portsmouth next Sunday will be enough to save Fulham and while Hodgson is taking nothing for granted, their fans celebrated as if survivial was already assured.

For Birmingham, there is nothing but gloom and trepidation. The Blues have seen their destiny plucked out of their own hands at the worst possible time and know that even a win against Blackburn next weekend will probably not be enough to salvage their top flight status.

Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium meant Steve Coppell’s side slipped into the bottom three. Leroy Lita, Andre Bikey and Liam Rosenior had chances to score for the home side but Spurs were the better team, and could have won by more.

Robbie Keane gave Spurs the lead in the 16th minute when he tricked his way past Rosenior and Kevin Doyle before slipping the ball beyond Marcus Hahnemann for the opening goal, his 23rd of a highly successful campaign.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos said: “Robbie Keane is a magnificent player, and we rely on him a lot. His performance against Reading was tremendous.

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