Cahill denies Reds victory

An 86th minute header from Tim Cahill earnt Everton a point as they held Liverpool their second successive Premier League draw, frustrating title hopes.

A tense game throughout saw the Reds go ahead on 68 minutes when Gerrard struck low from long range past the despairing dive of Tim Howard.

But it was the Blues that the last say in the game, equalising with a goal that will leave Rafa Benitez and Liverpool fans fuming. Cahill, totally unmarked, simply snuck in at a corner to head past a helpless Jose Reina.

The result puts Liverpool level on points with Manchester United, who have played a game less, at the top of the Barclay’s Premier League table.

Alex Kirkham’s Match Report

Tim Cahills late goal denied Liverpool a victory, which would have taken them to the top of the league, above Manchester United, as the Reds once again threw points away at home. Steven Gerrard had given the home side the advantage with a 25 yard strike in the 68th minute, before being cancelled out by Cahill’s 89th minute header from Artetas corner.

Everton started the bright out of both sides, with Victor Anichebe forcing a good save from Reina after only 35 seconds. Dirk Kuyt had the Reds first real chance, after Gerrards free kick had found its way to the back post, Kuyt controlled and fired towards goal, but the effort was blocked and cleared by the Everton Defence. Liverpool began to win plenty of free kicks in dangerous areas, but none of them came to any chances, as Jagielka and Neville patrolled the Everton backline and midfield.

Minutes later Liverpool should of lead. Hyypias long ball broke through the backline of Everton and as Torres bore down on Howard, it seemed inevitable that Torres would score, he did well to stay on his feet despite the intentions of Jagielka, before dinking the ball over the onrushing Howard from close range, but the ball hit the post, and went behind, leaving most of Anfield and anyone watching at home on TV shellshocked that the Spaniard had failed to find the net. Tim Cahill then forced another great save out of Reina, as his header looked like possibly heading for the bottom corner, but was clawed away by Reina for a corner.

The final chance of the half, fell to Riera, as he picked up the ball outside the box, the Everton defence backed off and he unleashed a fierce shot, but it curled away from Tim Howards post, and into the ranks of Everton fans in the Anfield Road end.

As the teams emerged for the second half, they was met by heavy snow falling from the dark skies above Anfield, as the tempreature lowened, on the pitch it was warming up. Torres had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down minutes after the restart, as he turned in the box, Jagielka seemingly caught the Spaniard, but Howard Webb waved away appeals from fans and players alike, and Torres had another good opportunity moments later, but he couldnt make the most of it.

Liverpool then had a great chance, as Gerrards half volley was palmed away by Howard, Hyypia seemed to be destined to put the ball into the net, but Leighton Baines made a excellent recovering tackle to thwart the Finn, and to add to the growing level of frustration amongst the home crowd. Torres then had another chance, as he pounced of a loose ball outside the area, his snapshot almost caught Howard out, but the ball went over the bar and into the Kop end, who could sense a goal may be coming, and it did moments later in the shape of Steven Gerrard.

Albert Riera’s ball from the left found Gerrard, and after a couple of touches, unleashed a screamer that zipped along the wet turf, and into the bottom corner, to send fans and players alike in to scenes of delerium at the Reds breakthrough, and what a way to mark his 250th game as captain.

Liverpool then sat back for the rest of the game, allowing Everton to attack freely, and the Reds paid heavily, as Yossi Benayoun brought down Stephen Piennar with minutes left. Arteta fizzed in a free kick from a tight angle, and Cahill nodded into the net, to send the away end into mayhem, and to send the home end into heartache, as once again it looked like the Reds had thrown away points at home, that they had in their grasp, and was there for the taking.

As the final whistle blew on this 209th Merseyside derby, it was a signal for unhappy Liverpool supporters to vent their anger on phone-ins, internet forums and such like, as once again Rafa Benitezs tactics came into question, and the Reds ability to put a game to bed. On a whole, a draw was a fair result, but Liverpool will be gutted not to have taken maximum points and leapfrogged Manchester United back to top spot.

BBC Sport Match Report

Tim Cahill’s late equaliser delivered a serious blow to Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes and earned Everton a deserved draw in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Liverpool looked to be heading back to the top of the table after captain Steven Gerrard‘s trademark 25-yard finish gave them the lead on 68 minutes.

But Everton were resilient throughout, and Cahill glanced home Mikel Arteta’s fiercely driven free-kick with only three minutes left to give David Moyes’ side a battling point.

Fernando Torres missed Liverpool’s best chance in the first half, clipping a post when clean through, but Pepe Reina also had to save well from Victor Anichebe’s early strike and Cahill’s header.

Liverpool paid the price for a cautious approach after Gerrard’s spectacular strike put them in front, and they now stay second in the table behind Manchester United – level on points but having played a game more.

Boss Benitez needed a win to restore normality to the Anfield atmosphere after his recent spats with United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson and his own hierarchy.

But Everton were in no mood to leave Anfield empty-handed and set the stage perfectly for part two of the derby double-header in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Benitez delivered an upbeat message about Liverpool’s title ambitions after watching his side squander a point, but this was a performance that merely confirmed that the title momentum has switched firmly in favour of champions United in the last 10 days.

Everton had the game’s outstanding performer in defender Phil Jagielka, and once again made light of the handicap of being stripped of virtually all their striking resources.

Benitez employed his most expensive attacking weaponry by reuniting Torres and Robbie Keane up front in an attempt to breach an Everton defence who had kept six successive clean sheets.

Anichebe came in for the suspended Marouane Fellaini – and almost gave Everton a stunning start with a low 25-yard drive that had Liverpool keeper Reina scrambling to his left to save.

He then provided a cross for Cahill, whose header at the far post brought a fine save from the diving Reina.

Liverpool had enjoyed plenty of possession, but with Jagielka faultless, Everton‘s defence was in typically miserly mood.

Everton were opened up after 27 minutes when Torres wasted a perfect opportunity to break the deadlock.

The Spanish striker swooped on to Sami Hyypia’s through ball as Everton‘s defence hesitated, but with only keeper Tim Howard to beat – and to the amazement of all inside Anfield – he clipped the outside of the post with his finish.

Albert Riera then fired just wide from 25 yards as Liverpool finally built up some momentum as the interval approached.

Liverpool, predictably in front of The Kop, came out firing after the break and were furious when referee Howard Webb ignored their appeals for a penalty as Torres tumbled under Jagielka’s challenge.

It gave Everton, who had showed tremendous spirit, a huge task as they attempted to work their way back into the game they had fought so hard to stay in.

And, after Benitez had fatefully substituted the tiring Torres with Lucas, they struck after 87 minutes to take a share of the spoils.

Arteta’s wicked delivery was met by Cahill, who steered a header beyond the stranded Reina.

It sparked scenes of wild celebrations among the Everton fans – but the silence from Liverpool’s supporters at the final whistle told the story that this was very much a missed opportunity for Benitez’s side.

Team Line-ups

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.

Attendance: 44,382
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)
Next Up: Everton (h) FA Cup, Sunday, 4pm; Wigan (a) Prem, Weds.