United got off to a flying start to their Elite Group Stage campaign beating Bolton away by 3-2.
Bolton impressed in the league before christmas, losing just 1 of 14 games (against Reading) and looked the better side before the break, but United took over in the final 45 minutes and thoroughly deserved their win.
James Weir created the first chance of the game, exchanging passes with James Wilson, before turning his man and rolling the ball just wide of german goalkeeper Jan Ole Sievers’ post. Bolton immediately struck back, winning a free-kick in a very dangerous position but Salford-born Tom Walker struck the ball straight at Sutherland.
After 15 minutes Bolton took the lead when Nicolas Ioannou, who had a rather poor game by his standards, wandered too far up the field and lost the ball. Bolton broke quickly and a couple of passes later, Zach Clough found himself alone with Sutherland and the striker made no mistake scoring.
Wilson almost brought United level but fired just wide of the post after being set-up nicely by Weir.
33 minutes passed when United got a free-kick just outside the box. While Sievers was lining up his wall and his defenders were sleeping – Barmby took a short free-kick to Pearson to get a better angle – and then curled the ball into the roof of the net. A wonderful goal but not something the Bolton manager Jimmy Phillips will have enjoyed watching.
Daehli had been fairly quiet but just before the break he went on a dazzling run down the left flank. Beating 3 men along the touch line, the Norwegian then tried to beat Sievers from a very tight angle – but the german saved without too much trouble.
After the break United took charge of the game. Just 3 minutes in Jack Barmby sent in a superb cross that barely eluded Weir who came barging into the box.
The home-team created very little in the 2nd half – but were sure to capitalise on any defensive errors by United. A side especially good on the break, Bolton almost capitalised on another Ioannou mistake but this time Grimshaw was well positioned to stop Bolton from getting another goal.
In the 65th minute there was controversy when Daehli took on 2 men on the edge of the box before going down under a challenge, United screamed for a penalty but the referee waved play on. Things were made worse when Bolton went straight up the field and put the ball in the back of the net after Love went to the ground in a duel with the goalscorer. Love was furious claiming he was pulled down and luckily for United, the linesman agreed with him.
Replays showed that both decisions were correct – Daehli went down way too easy and Love was clearly fouled prior to the goal.
This was all the warning United needed and they proceeded to dominated the game. Barmby saw 2 dangerous free-kicks cleared before Wilson sent a half-volley just over the bar from 10 yards out.
United finally got their rewards after some good work down the left between Mats Daehli and Louis Rowley. Rowley’s cross was perfect and Weir arriving at the far post hit the ball on the volley into the top corner.
with just 3 minutes left of normal time, Bolton didn’t seem capable of creating anything and United looked far more likely to score, but when United stormed forward to get their third goal and finish the game off, Bolton struck back to steal an equaliser. A through-ball from Barmby to Wilson was easily intercepted and subsequently Youngs found himself free on Uniteds left.
In desperation Pearson fouled him giving away a freekick just outside United’s box, and you kind of knew what was about to happen.
Clough stood over the ball, he then hit it. Perfectly. The ball flew into the top corner of Sutherland’s far post and Bolton were level with just minutes to go.
But like the first team United had no plans of letting the game go and continued to push forward.
In injury time a corner found Barmby about 10 yards out, allowed time and space to juggle the ball he played it to James Wilson on the left. The striker took one step to the side, taking the ball past his man, and drove it home from short range. Sievers possibly should have done better as it was straight at him but Wilson will not be concerned, scoring his 13th goal of the season to give Paul McGuiness’ side the win.
Bolton: Jan Ole Sievers, Sam Bailey, Tom Holding, Niall Maher, Liam Gibson, Luke Woodland, Dylan Wolstenholme, Elliott Newby, Tom Youngs, Tom Walker, Zach Clough