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Diouf helps Bolton move closer to safety

SoccerNews in English Premier League 3 May 2008


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 Saturday, Bolton knew a win would lift them away from the drop zone and within touching distance of safety.

With Kevin Davies back from a two-match suspension, it was no surprise to see Megson's team launch a series of long punts towards the powerful striker.

From one such delivery, Davies's flick appeared to be handled by Jonny Evans but referee Martin Atkinson ignored their claims for a penalty.

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.

Roy Keane's visitors could have drawn level in the 52nd minute when Michael Chopra fired straight at Al Habsi.

Diouf went close again when he met Matt Taylor's cross but the Senegal striker's diving header was deflected for a corner by Danny Collins.

Keane made a triple substitution on the hour in an attempt to shake up his side and Roy O'Donovan, one of those replacements, headed Andy Reid's deep cross towards Jones. The striker had the goal at his mercy but his lunge failed to make contact with the ball and Bolton breathed again.

That proved the decisive moment as 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 football's elite.


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