Australia international Tim Cahill marked his return to the Everton side with the winning goal in their 3-2 victory away to Premier League newboys Stoke City on Sunday. Everton, who had been 2-0 up before the hosts fought back to 2-2, scored the decisive fifth goal of the match in the 77th minute when the midfielder eluded the Stoke defence to flick in a corner from Mikel Arteta.
"That's what Tim does. He scores important goals for us and he's won us the game today," Everton manager David Moyes who was sent to the stands by referee Alan Wiley. "It's a good afternoon to get three points. Here it's very hard."
Cahill hadn't played since March because of a broken foot and missed the start of the new season as well as Australia's opening FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Uzbekistan in midweek. The 28-year-old scored ten league goals last season and played a crucial role in helping Everton to fifth place in the table and a spot in the UEFA Cup.
This victory took the Toffees into the top half of the Premier League but left Stoke with only basement club Tottenham, who play Aston Villa on Monday, below them in the table.
Nigerians on target
Goals either side of half-time from Nigerian internationals Yakubu and Victor Anichebe put the visitors ahead and seemingly in control. However, Stoke got back into the game soon after the visitors' second with a goal from another Nigerian, Seyi Olofinjana, before Phil Jagielka put through his own net in the 63rd minute.
Both teams had cause to rue a couple of controversial decisions by Wiley. First Stoke were denied a seemingly good goal when Ricardo Fuller, after rounding Tim Howard in the 59th minute and slotting the ball into the net, was penalised for making contact on Joseph Yobo.
Everton were as incensed when Wiley, who had pointed to the penalty spot, changed his mind after consulting his assistant and instead gave a free-kick on the edge of the box, when it appeared Stoke's Leon Cort had handled inside the penalty area. Soon afterwards a furious Moyes, having berated the fourth official, was sent to the stands.
"The referee pointed to the spot and from where I was standing he (Cort) was two yards inside (the box)," said Moyes. "I've not had a chance to see it yet. If I'm wrong, I'll apologise to him. I would probably expect the same from him (Wiley)," the Scot added.
A match that had been full of endeavour, with Stoke's aerial threat a persistent problem for the Everton defence, received a much-needed injection of class in the 41st minute. Arteta's clever reverse-pass found Cahill and his precise ball released Yakubu who calmly slotted home past City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen. Neither side looked comfortable when defending set-pieces and Everton doubled their lead in the 51st minute when the unmarked Anichebe's glancing header from Arteta's free-kick gave Sorensen no chance.
Stoke, however, fought back after Everton failed to deal with two long throws. First Everton keeper Tim Howard could only punch weakly as he came to deal with Rory Delap's throw and Olofinjana volleyed the ball back fiercely past the American. Another Delap delivery caused problems when Jagielka headed past Howard at the near post and Stoke were level.
But just when Tony Pulis's side thought they might be on course for a memorable victory, Cahill headed in from eight yards.