Everton v Blackburn
Tim Cahill scored his first goal in more than a year but saw his joy tempered as Blackburn snatched a point at Goodison Park.
The Aussie opened the scoring on 24 minutes but the Blues were never convincing, and when they failed to build on that advantage, they were always at risk against a Rovers team that created their fair share of chances.
The sting in the tail came when Stephen Nzonzi went up with Tim Howard – who thought he had been fouled – and David Goodwillie charged down Cahill’s clearance to scramble the ball home.
The Blues chased the game hard in the closing stages with Shane Duffy hitting the bar and Mauro Formica clearing off the line but the dogged visitors held on – much to the Everton’s frustration.
A lot has happened since Cahill last notched. Revolution swept through the Middle East, the US hunted down Osama Bin Laden and the country celebrated a Royal wedding. Even Phil Neville had banged in a couple.
But the Aussie is a living legend at Goodison and his opportunistic 24th minute opener was classic Cahill. Right place, right time.
When you are known for your goals like Cahill is then it is all people want to talk about and the fact his barren run has coincided with multiple injuries – not to mention the amount of times he has played through injury – is often overlooked.
The game also fell on the 35th birthday of Everton skipper Neville - who even pulled out a couple of stepovers to mark the occasion – but any celebrations in the Neville household will be somewhat muted given the eventual outcome of this encounter.
Goals always looked on the agenda – the opening exchanges hinting at defensive vulnerability at both ends.
First the returning Victor Anichebe should really have tucked away a volley after being expertly set up by the jet-heeled Landon Donovan, who zipped up the right and carved out a great cross.
And minutes later the Blues had Leighton Baines to thank as he stood firm to clear off the line as Scott Dann’s looping header threatened to drop in at the back stick.
It was an open start with the Blues more 4-3-3 than 4-5-1 and Blackburn unafraid to commit men forward.
So it was no surprise to see the deadlock broken inside 30 minutes.
And ordinarily the source of the goal wouldn’t have raised too many eyebrows.
But Cahill hadn’t struck since a customary goal against Manchester City on December 20, 2010, so the sight of the Aussie battering the corner flag in front of the Gwladys was a welcome and popular sight.
Donovan’s cute clipped cross cut a gaping hole in the Rovers rearguard and, after Paul Robinson had foiled Marouane Fellaini, Cahill was there to sweep home and end his year-long drought with his 66th goal in Everton Blue.
The visitors may well have had a case when appealing for a handball from Fellaini in the build-up, and there was more bad luck for them when David Dunn’s low strike thumped back off the foot of the post.
It was a lucky escape for the Blues who could well have done with the comfort of a second.
And they almost had it on the stroke of half-time with first Fellaini going close and then Cahill testing Robinson with a firm header.
A sluggish start to the second period prompted Moyes to call for the extra zing of Royston Drenthe.
But still the Blues lacked urgency and soon they saw their lead evaporate as Nzonzi went up with Howard and Goodwillie charged down Cahill’s clearance to bundle home a leveller.
On came first Apostolos Vellios and then big Denis Stracqualursi as the Blues chased the game. The latter was involved in a goalmouth scramble which also saw Fellaini's header hacked off the line, but despite the injection of energy and added aerial threat there was to be no late twist for the frustrated hosts.