Hitzlsperger steals win for Villa

The midfielder latched on to a right-wing cross from Carlton Cole in the last minute and struck a sublime half-volley past debutant Andy Oakes to steal a 2-1 win. And it was a steal. Bolton Wanderers dominated for much of the game and after El-Hadji Diouf had opened the scoring on 20 minutes, there appeared only one likely winner, despite Gavin McCann's equaliser just before halftime.

By the time Diouf broke the deadlock, Sam Allardyce’s men had already tested Thomas Sørenson. Nicky Hunt picked out Henrik Pedersen on the edge of the box and the Dane deftly chested the ball back into the path of Gary Speed, back in the side after recovering from the Achilles injury, only for the former Wales midfielder to slice wide.

Three minutes later, Bolton were ahead though when Diouf collected an innocuous-looking pass from Kevin Nolan and diverted the ball into the corner of the net. The pair were a constant threat to Villa with their willingness to take men on, but the visitors have developed the dogged tenacity of which their opponents are famed in recent weeks and the waspish Lee Hendrie and tireless Gavin McCann put up stern resistance.

Five minutes before the interval the two combined to regain parity when Hendrie delivered a superb cross to McCann who stole a yard to flick a Shaun Goateresque header beyond Oakes. They say they all count though Bolton quickly tried to demean the old adage as Hunt, Pedersen and Speed then tested Sørenson either side of half-time before a mistake by De La Cruz presented them with a superb opportunity to restore the advantage in the 57th minute.

The Ecuadorian’s frustrated long-range pass had all the accuracy of an American cluster bomb and was picked up on the edge of the centre circle by the alert Pedersen but the striker was again denied by Sørenson. Shortly afterwards, David O'Leary decided to switch things around, bringing off the ineffective Peter Whittingham – possibly to dry behind his ears – and bringing on Hitzlsperger.

The change wrought reward for the visitors, whose renewed sense of balance lead to Cole carving out a great chance for Hendrie, whose touch let him down and the ball ran away from him. Diouf headed against the post after Nolan's cross on 82 minutes and Bruce N'Gotty contrived to head over when well placed, before Hitzlsperger turned Bolton’s day from bad to worse with his second goal in a week (after scoring for the reserves on Wednesday) to deliver Bolton their first home defeat of the season and lift Villa to fifth.