Daniel Sturridge scored his third goal in three games to continue Bolton’s unlikely push towards a European place.
The man on loan from Chelsea added his strike to Gary Cahill’s first half header to move the Trotters up to 8th in the table. Everton, however, are now just three points clear of the relegation zone after a lacklustre performance.
Sturridge’s confidence when on the ball and intelligent movement was a constant threat to the Everton defence. Playing off the ever-competitive Kevin Davies, the youngster was given ample opportunity to get on the ball courtesy of his strike partner’s flick-ons, as well as receiving chances from midfield.
However, it was from a set play that Bolton took the lead. Cahill’s opener came in the tenth minute, his header from Stuart Holden’s free kick wrong footing Tim Howard as it deflected off Johnny Heitinga.
That seemed to put Everton off their stride and they never really recovered. With Johan Elmander playing wide right for the home side, Sturridge was allowed to influence the game more in central areas. He and Sam Ricketts both went close, with only Arteta offering up some kind of resistance for the Toffees.
That Sturridge and Davies were allowed to dictate play in the attacking third was mostly down to Stuart Holden, the American coming off better in his midfield battle with Marouane Feillani. Mark Davies’ tenacity against Mikel Arteta was also a contributing factor to Bolton’s success.
And after the hour mark, Sturridge effectively put the game beyond Everton with a fine finish. The away side failed to deal with a Cahill free kick when Lee Chung Yong, on as a second half substitute, won a header in the box. The ball dropped for Sturridge, and the striker fired home across a helpless Tim Howard.
The goal was no less than the 21-year-old deserved, and adds further weight to the argument that, given the chances to shine, Sturridge can still be an integral part of Chelsea’s first team if Carlo Ancelotti wishes to utilise him past the end of the season.
The striker was not done contributing to the game, curling an effort wide five minutes later before setting up Holden with a clever back-heel from the byline. The American’s effort was ruled out however, the assistant on the near side deeming the ball had gone out of play. Replays showed this wasn’t the case.
Everton didn’t capitalise on the decision, however, with Victor Anichibe having the best of David Moyes’ side’s chances. In reality, though, the visitors were never in a position to threaten the outcome of a home win. Improvements will be needed in the coming weeks if the Toffees are to climb back up the table.
Owen Coyle, however, will have been encouraged with his side’s performance, and in particular, the contribution of Sturridge. If they keep it up, Bolton could once again be flying high in Europe.