Cahill goal makes Liverpool's road a little bit longer

Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 00:00

Liverpool 1 Everton 1:IT IS long road to the title and sometimes it is hard just to get through one’s own town unscathed. With three minutes remaining, an admirably tenacious Everton earned a free-kick on the left and Tim Cahill headed in Mikel Arteta’s delivery.

With that, Steven Gerrard’s opener had been cancelled out and the Anfield side, after a second consecutive draw, found themselves in second place, behind Premier League leaders Manchester United on goal difference.

Liverpool were attempting to press their bid for the Premier League title and, Everton, a side making admirable use of limited means, were trying to enhance their status. Neither side could impose itself fully before the interval, but Everton, as visitors, took encouragement then from matching Liverpool. David Moyes’ side would not allow themselves to be belaboured, and with each manager using a single outright forward the play was sometimes trapped in midfield. Everton, searching for a first win over Liverpool since 2006, could easily have opened the scoring.

With 26 minutes gone, Stephen Pienaar picked out Cahill with a deep cross, but the goalkeeper was equal to the considered downward header from the Australian. That moment of menace did provoke a reaction. The Everton central defence was split by a long ball from Sami Hyypia and Fernando Torres ran free before clipping the outside of the post with his drive.

Torres, making his first start since a hamstring injury, was part of what was surely intended to be an enhanced line-up. After all, Xabi Alonso was fit to return. Superiority was still not obvious before half-time and Rafael Benitez could only have been peeved by his side’s failing to impose their style.

As in all derby matches, the teams competed strenuously with one another while also trying to fend off the emotions of the crowd. There was, inevitably, a smattering of early fouls but the referee Howard Webb also had moderation in mind and withheld the early yellow card that the home support craved before eventually cautioning Steven Pienaar in the 27th minute. Regardless of that, Moyes must have been encouraged. Although injury had ruled out Joseph Yobo, the central defence were coping satisfactorily.

In the goalless draw at Stoke the captain Steven Gerrard had operated close to a lone striker, Dirk Kuyt. The opposition seemed sure of his whereabouts for most of the match and stifled him. Not until too near the end did Gerrard pose a threat. Here he was given a posting much nearer his own back four. In theory that allowed him plenty of space into which he could burst, but Gerrard’s verve was still stifled by a watchful Everton.

A breakthrough could have come in the 48th minute. It was certainly injudicious of a pursuing Jagielka to bump into Torres, but Webb wisely treated it as a simple collision. The referee was not tested severely either before deeming that a heated effort by Mikel Arteta to tackle Dirk Kuyt had been worth a yellow card.

Liverpool did at least make their presence felt by raising the tempo. With 56 minutes gone, the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard pushed out a Gerrard shot to the fringes of the six-yard box. It looked as if Sami Hyypia would convert but the left-back Leighton Baines responded smartly to deny him.

That still did not breed panic. Goalless draws at home to Fulham and West Ham earlier in this campaign had suggested that Liverpool can become predictable. When they did go ahead here, in the 68th minute, it was in a simple manner. Gerrard stepped onto a square pass from Albert Riera and found the corner of the net with a low 25-yarder.

Liverpool surely had it in mind that this was the sort of night that, in retrospect, might take on a trace of beauty as part of the bid for the title that has been denied the club for so long. However, Cahill had other ideas.

Guardian Service

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Aurelio, Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Babel 89), Keane (Benayoun 67), Torres (Leiva Lucas 85). Subs not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Arbeloa, Mascherano.

EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Lescott, Jagielka, Baines, Osman, Arteta, Neville, Pienaar, Cahill, Anichebe. Subs not used: Nash, Van der Meyde, Castillo, Rodwell, Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Kissock. Booked: Pienaar, Arteta.

Refere: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).