The opportunity was there for Landon Donovan to make a spectacular return to the English Premier League, but he'll have to settle for something not quite so comprehensive.
A fine first half by the Galaxy's captain was wasted in Everton's 2-1 home loss Wednesday night to Bolton in heavy winds that enabled American goalkeeper Tim Howard to score a phenomenal goal for the Toffees.
It failed to hold up, with David Ngog and Gary Cahill scoring 11 minutes apart to rally Bolton (5-14-1), which escaped the EPL cellar, to a 2-1 victory, its fourth away win of the season. Everton (7-9-3) is 11th of 20 clubs.
Donovan started on the right side of midfield, his customary place the with the Galaxy, and wore a No. 9 jersey. He went the full 90, not by design: Everton manager David Moyes was forced to use his three substitutions when Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell and Leon Osman departed because of injuiries.
Donovan, whose second loan stint to Everton in three seasons ends Feb. 25, was superb in the first half, helping to ignite the Toffees' attack -- especially hen cutting inside from the right -- and perhaps earning a penalty kick that was not awarded.
That came in the 44th minute, when he when he raced into the box to take a short feed from first-time starter Denis Stracqualursi for an open shot but was clipped from behind by Sam Ricketts. Referee Phil Dowd saw no foul.
Donovan was taken down on a nice move with his first touch, in the ninth minute, leading to a dangerous Leighton Baines free kick, and played a fine low ball to set up Stracqualursi for a shot four minutes later.
Donovan wasn't as involved after halftime, when Bolton had the run of play.
Howard, making his 250th EPL appearance, was Everton's star, making a couple of spectacular saves and providing a 63rd-minute lead with a jaw-dropping goal. Howard booted a back pass forward, and it got caught in the wind, took a bounce near the top of Bolton's box and, again boosted by the winds, bounced over Wanderers goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and into the net.
The shot covered nearly 100 yards. It's the fourth goal by a goalkeeper in EPL history.
“It was a freak goal,” Moyes told his club's website afterward. “We hadn't really deserved to be a goal up. ... To be fair, I thought Bolton was the better team for most of the game, so I can't argue about [the result].”
Everton is home Saturday against fifth-tier Tamworth in the third round of the F.A. Cup.