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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 21:58 GMT
Bolton 5-2 Aston Villa
Jay-Jay Okocha is congratulated by Kevin Nolan and Stelios Giannakopoulos
Okocha is congratulated for his stunning two-goal display for Bolton
Bolton grabbed a healthy three-goal lead over Aston Villa in a thrilling Carling Cup semi-final, first leg.

Jay-Jay Okocha, playing his last game before leaving for the African Nations Cup, opened the scoring with a curling free-kick in the second minute.

Kevin Nolan, Stelios Giannakopoulos and Bruno N'Gotty were also on target for Bolton before Okocha sealed the win with another stunning free-kick.

Juan Pablo Angel scored two vital away goals for David O'Leary's side.

Bolton were eager to get their chase for a final place up-and-running and did not have to wait long to make their early pressure pay.

Nolan took his time to line-up his shot from 20 yards out but was denied the chance by Peter Whittingham, who clipped him from behind.

Wanderers' skipper Okocha stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and his curling right-foot effort found the back of the net thanks to a hint of a deflection from Jlloyd Samuel.

Villa's defence were left exposed six minutes later as Nolan was determined to get his chance in front of goal.

2 mins: Okocha's free-kick curls beyond Sorenson
9 mins: Nolan doubles the lead with a rifling shot
17 mins: Giannakopoulos makes it 3-0 with an overhead kick
20 mins: Angel's floated pass gets one back for Villa
56 mins: Angel is on hand to deflect in Vassell's shot
74 mins: N'Gotty header puts Bolton 4-2 up
80 mins: Okocha powers home a second free-kick to make it 5-2
The midfielder out-muscled Olof Mellberg, skipping past him to slam his shot beyond a despairing Thomas Sorenson.

All Villa boss David O'Leary could do was show his frustration from the sidelines as the recalled Dion Dublin and Mellberg again came woefully unstuck at the back.

Kevin Davies rose to get the better of Dublin in the air and flicked the ball on to Giannakopoulos who grabbed a third goal for Bolton with a clinical overhead kick.

With just 17 minutes gone at the Reebok Stadium, the third goal seemed to be the wake-up call the visitors needed.

Villa were determined to battle back in the game and the industrious Angel displayed some sublime footwork to leave Davies baffled on the right.

The Colombian capitalised on his good work as his floated cross drifted beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen at the far-post and into the net.

A reinvigorated Villa side began to dictate the pace of the game and Jaaskelainen deserved credit for protecting Bolton's lead.

The Finn got his fingertips to a Gareth Barry pass to push the ball out of reach of the looming Darius Vassell.

But the home side's defence was breached in the 56th minute when Vassell's goalbound effort deflected in off Angel.

Bruno N'Gotty restored Bolton's two-goal advantage in the 74th minute, rising clear of the Villa defence to head home Youri Djorkaeff's corner.

Okocha rounded off his farewell six minutes later with a second stunning goal.

The Nigerian's free-kick swerved before rocketing back into the corner of the net to hand Bolton a three-goal advantage.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, N'Gotty, Thome, Barness (Charlton 63), Campo, Giannakopoulos (Pedersen 69), Djorkaeff (Ba 84), Okocha, Nolan, Davies. Subs not used: Poole, Javi Moreno.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Mellberg (Johnsen 54), Dublin, Samuel, Hendrie, McCann, Whittingham, Barry (Hitzlsperger 57), Angel, Vassell (Allback 77). Subs not used: Postma, De la Cruz.
Booked: McCann, Vassell, Hendrie, Dublin.

Attendance: 16,302.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

Links to more League Cup stories


BBC Five Live's Ian Dennis
"A breathtaking contest and a jaw-dropping final goal"

Bolton boss Sam Allardyce
"It was an unbelievable semi-final"

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