By Richard Clarke
Substitute Henrik Pedersen crashed home a half-volley with seven minutes remaining to deny Arsenal victory at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday.
Robert Pires had put the visitors ahead with a bobbling shot in the 57th minute but, before and after the goal, Arsène Wenger's side had to endure long periods of pressure from a hard-working Bolton outfit.
Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann performed manfully as Sam Allardyce's side held the upper hand in the first half. Arsenal's scored while they were on top but Bolton responded with vibrancy.
Just when it seemed the visitorsl had stolen the points, Pascal Cygan's clearing header fell to Pedersen on the edge of the area and he crashed home his shot past the helpless Lehmann.
Chelsea's 1-0 victory at Fulham means they have exactly the same points tally, goal difference and goals scored as Arsenal. It all means Manchester United will be top at Christmas if they avoid defeat at White Hart Lane tomorrow.
With Ashley Cole starting a three-game suspension, Ars?ne Wenger had to make a decision over his left back. Gael Clichy got the nod and Pascal Cygan retained his place at centre half despite fit-again Martin Keown coming through 90 minutes in the Carling Cup victory at West Brom on Tuesday.
Last season this fixture saw the decisive twist in the Premiership title race. Goals from Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires early in the second half gave Arsenal a strangehold but the Youri Djorkaeff reduced the arrears with 16 minutes left and then Martin Keown's own goal levelled matters six minutes from time. It gave Manchester United a crucial advantage with only two games left in the season.
It was a wet day in the North West. Persistent rain made for treacherous conditions on the roads for the Arsenal fans making their way up by car; it also made matters difficult for the players on the pitch.
Bolton made the running in the first 15 minutes. Lehmann's handling was tested as the home side threw in crosses hoping to take advantage of the conditions. The German clung on to Nolan's cross as Kevin Davies bore down on goal. The only other chance of note was Emerson Thome's spectacular overhead kick which was blocked before reaching the keeper.
Arsenal's only effort at this stage was Henry's pot-shot that only troubled the spectators behind the Bolton goal.
The French striker did better in the 22nd minute. Dennis Bergkamp took a free-kick on the right-hand byline. He swung it to the far post but Davies could not clear and his header looped up for Henry to sidefoot a cross-cum-shot that nearly crept inside the other post.
Bolton responded by carving out their best chance. Per Frandsen waited for Djorkaeff to time his run to the edge of the area. The French midfielder, who played under Wenger at Monaco, arrived on time to crack a shot three feet over the bar.
At least the game was starting to hot up. Kolo Toure, who was attacking well down the right flank, fed a pass to Bergkamp but the Dutch striker miscued his shot horribly.
Two minutes later Nolan turned Cygan fired a low shot from an acute angle. It would have found its way to far corner of the net but for the merest of touches from Lehmann.
The half ended as it had started ? with Bolton forcing the game. Although Ljungberg did flick a header wide in the dying seconds from Henry's cross.
Arsenal needed some inspiration. From the way they started, Wenger had provided it in the dressing room at the break. Suddenly there was more purpose and belief in their play.
Henry found himself in foot race with Simon Chalrton six minutes after the restart and, with respect to the Bolton defender, most were betting on a French victory. However Charlton battled back well to deny Arsenal's top scorer.
The visitors were just starting to move through the gears so their opener, while not foreseen by everybody, at least came with the run of play.
Henry burst through on the right and waited for Ljungberg to join him. The Swede scuttled up and let fly from just inside the area but Jussi Jaaskelainen blocked and the ball fell for Pires to return the shot toward goal. He hit it into the floor and the ball bounced up over the keeper and into the net. His sixth strike of the Premiership season.
Bolton responded with the anticipated fire. Jay-Jay Okocha immediately curled a free-kick against outside the post and against the home side tested Lehmann.
What the former Schalke stopper did not claim, he punched clear. From one such fist away, Frandsen produced a lob toward goal, but with Lehmann struggling to recover his ground, Pires popped up to nod the ball away from danger.
However he could do nothing about the equaliser. Pedersen's shot was past Lehmann in a flash. Few could deny Bolton deserved their point but it came just when you thought Arsenal were going to hold on.
|Thierry Henry accelerates past Kevin Nolan||Kolo Toure races Youri Djorkaeff for the ball|
|Robert Pires lets loose a powerful shot...||... and Jussi Jaaskelainen watches it go in|
|Freddie holds off Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha||Patrick Vieira out-jumps Per Frandsen|
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