Brilliant Jaaskelainen sews up victory for Bolton
Hull City 0 Bolton Wanderers 1
No one rates Jussi Jaaskelainen's qualities more highly than Phil Brown, so it can have come as no surprise to the Hull manager that it was the 33-year-old goalkeeper who came between his side and a share of the points.
Brown admired the Finn's shot-stopping ability at close quarters during his time as assistant manager at Bolton, so it was with a wry if slightly forced smile that he offered his congratulations after Jaaskelainen made a series of brilliant saves behind a defence with their backs to the wall in the closing stages.
Leading through Matt Taylor's goal early in the second half, Bolton were under the cosh for the last 20 minutes as Hull pressed for the equaliser Brown felt they deserved. But the home side, whose dream start to the season has been checked by three consecutive defeats, could not find a way past Jaaskelainen, who kept out a swerving free kick from Geovanni before blocking a close-range header from the little Brazilian, scooping away the loose ball and then, as Hull continued to bear down on the visitors' goal, pulling off another double save, off balance, from a deflected Marlon King shot.
"He has had a blinder," Brown said. "He has pulled off a couple of world-class saves. The one from the Geovanni header probably turned the game. I was expecting to be running on the field with both arms in the air because we had equalised. But I have nothing but admiration for what Jussi has done at Bolton. He is a world-class goalkeeper and certainly one of the best in the Premier League."
Defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United could hardly be seen as shocks but this was an opponent Hull would have expected to beat, even though Bolton seldom make that an easy task. Ignore their unlikely clutch of early-season points and Hull's standing in the Premier League, in reality, is on a par with Gary Megson's team – both solid, hard-working sides with the potential to finish in the middle of the table but equally at risk of finding themselves scrapping to avoid the drop. The table looks too good still to prompt any such dire prediction over the ultimate fate of Hull's debut top-flight season but three reverses in a row means the fairytale has encountered its first difficult chapter.
For much of yesterday's contest, there was little to choose between the teams. Hull had more chances, but only half-chances. Jaaskelainen had to reposition himself when a Geo-vanni shot moved late in the air. King hit the bar with a flying backheel from a Geovanni cross but it would have been a flukey goal had it gone in. Otherwise, it was the two Bolton centre backs, Gary Cahill and Andy O'Brien, who were in charge.
A breakthrough seemed more likely from the home side, yet it was Bolton who went in front, five minutes into the second half. Ian Ashbee headed away from a Gavin McCann corner and there did not seem too much danger as the ball looped towards the edge of the penalty area. Taylor took a hopeful punt towards goal but Boaz Myhill was unsighted by players in front of him and when the ball appeared he reacted too late.
Hull stepped up their tempo but now Jaaskelainen came into his own, repeating the heroics that had preceded Bolton's late push for victory against Manchester City a week ago. It is substantially down to him that two wins have lifted his side from the bottom three to ninth position in two bounds. His first intervention against Geovanni was to keep out a fierce, swerving free-kick, diving to his right. Then, as the Brazilian threw himself at Dean Marney's cross, he not only blocked a header but scooped away the loose ball for good measure. Four minutes from time, he somehow reached a King shot deflected off Caleb Folan, before scrambling to his feet to thwart Geovanni again.