Cahill's strike spoils Chelsea's party

This overhead kick by Tim Cahill got the equaliser for Everton against Chelsea.-AP

Everton's last-minute equaliser was hit with acrobatic force by Tim Cahill and it would take a dreary soul to reproach Chelsea too much, writes Kevin McCarra.

Everton's last-minute equaliser was hit with acrobatic force by Tim Cahill and it would take a dreary soul to reproach Chelsea too much. Avram Grant's side produced bright football and were on the verge, as well, of a sixth consecutive clean sheet in the Premier League. The credit for Everton was due primarily for continuing to be dogged despite 48 hours less rest than the opposition following midweek matches in Germany for both clubs.

David Moyes, their manager, is seeking to manage with a boldness appropriate to the improved quality of his squad.

When it was goalless at the interval he took off his captain Phil Neville because the presence of a pair of defensive midfielders looked excessive. "We made a brave decision," Moyes said in excusable selfcongratulation. "I always thought we were in it." The Scot, nonetheless, could not claim to have transformed the match.

Only with a minute to go did Everton cause consternation. James McFadden, Neville's replacement, came in from the right to aim a shot that bounced off Juliano Belletti.

Cahill ensured that the full-back could not complete the clearance, putting his body in the way before hitting the net with a strong overhead kick. It was the Australian's first Premier League goal of the season. The finish flew past Carlo Cudicini, the deputy for the injured Petr Cech. A rueful Grant mused that the Chelsea defence in place at the close of this fixture was entirely different from the one present at the start of October.

Ricardo Carvalho went off with a back injury and required a scan. Even so John Terry and Cech were not badly missed. The luxurious options were such that the splendid Wayne Bridge was picked in preference to Ashley Cole. Irrespective of the personnel, Chelsea played with enough conviction to make it appear that the composition of the defence was immaterial.

Grant has introduced verve and the principal concern lies in the fact that Didier Drogba is the sole forward who can be trusted to score. With the match tied at 0-0, it was a withering rebuke to the experienced attackers Andriy Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro that they were kept on the bench.

The African Nations Cup will do its main harm to Chelsea in January by plundering Stamford Bridge for Drogba. The Ivorian, judging by comments to interviewers, envisages a permanent separation but Grant brushes that aside. "I see Drogba play with a lot of passion," the manager remarked. "He hasn't said anything to me about leaving."

Chelsea do have a terrible need for high quality reinforcements in the forward line, lending credence to claims that a bid will be made for someone like Bolton's Nicolas Anelka in January. There is a burden on Drogba, even if those broad shoulders do not look as if they feel the weight.

Steven Pienaar might have scored from a Leon Osman header after quarter of an hour but the match was largely about Chelsea's hankering for a goal. With 30 minutes gone, the outstanding Tim Howard made a particularly good save when he needed to change direction to deal with Frank Lampard's effort following a Belletti cross. The goalkeeper, by then, had denied Shaun Wright-Phillips as well.

In the 45th minute, howard was powerless. The lively Bridge intercepted an attempted pass, burst past Joseph Yobo and found Wright-Phillips. While the winger's cross did bobble it was still remarkable that Drogba could not make some sort of connection in front of an open goal.

Everton were often beleaguered and Tony Hibbert needed to knock an Alex attempt off the line after Howard had punched out a Lampard corner in the 64th minute.

Joleon Lescott generally looked calm and authoritative in the midst of the havoc, making his claim, before the watching Steve McClaren, for filling the vacancy in the England defence.

"He dealt with one of the best forwards in Europe," said an admiring Moyes. Well, not entirely. Drogba did break through in the 71st minute, slipping away from Lescott and not being picked up at the near post by Lee Carsley before he had headed the substitute Salamon Kalou's corner into the net.

Chelsea celebrated, never dreaming Everton's perseverance would meet with so unlikely a reward.

THE RESULTS November 11:

Birmingham 1 (Forssell 62) lost to Aston Villa 2 (Ridgewell o.g. 11, Agbonlahor 87). Half-time: 0-1; Bolton 0 drew with Middlesbrough 0; Chelsea 1 (Drogba 70) drew with Everton 1 (Cahill 90). Half-time: 0-0; Manchester United 2 (Ronaldo 34 & 35) bt Blackburn 0. Half-time: 2-0; Portsmouth 0 drew with Manchester City 0; Tottenham 4 (Jenas 13 & 26, Lennon 34, Bent 72) bt Wigan 0. Half-time: 3-0.

November 10:

Derby 0 lost to West Ham 5 (Bowyer 42 & 59, Etherington 51, Lewis o.g. 55, Solano 69). Half-time: 0-1; Liverpool 2 (Torres 81, Gerrard pen-85) bt Fulham 0. Half-time: 0-0; Sunderland 1 (Higginbotham 52) drew with Newcastle 1 (Milner 65). Half-time: 0-0.

November 5: Manchester City 1 (Ireland 67) bt Sunderland 0. Half-time: 0-0.