If this was to be Gary Cahill's farewell, he left Bolton a precious parting gift. Part of his attraction is that he is a defender who scores goals and, with one elegant swing of his right foot, he drove home a shot that took Bolton to within a point of safety.
He is a man in a shop window and, following reports that Andre Villas-Boas' revelation of his wage demands has dragged a long-touted move to Chelsea on to the rocks, his was a display that would have caught the attentions of the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, watching from the directors' box.
One way or another he is London-bound. Owen Coyle, who will not remain his manager for very long, was confident Stamford Bridge was still his likeliest destination, despite reports he is seeking £30,000 a week more than Chelsea are prepared to offer. "His representatives have met Chelsea only once and when you have these kind of meetings you tend to start with the highest gambit," said Coyle. "But you have to admire Gary's focus and attitude on the pitch when a club of Chelsea's stature are interested in him."
It was a focus that was notably absent at the start of the season, when Arsenal appeared Cahill's likeliest destination, and Bolton's season, which began with the toughest start of any Premier League club, was stumbling along in low gear.
Cahill rescued a match that seemed to have been taken from Bolton by one outrageous clearance from Tim Howard that, caught by wind, travelled 80 yards, bounced over the horribly, hopelessly stranded figure of Adam Bogdan and finished in the net beneath an astonished Gwladys End. This is the kind of goal that sides spiralling towards relegation tend to concede, although Bolton looked far from doomed last night.
Pat Jennings once beat Alex Stepney like this in the 1967 Charity Shield, although this game mattered rather more. The joke on Merseyside will be that Everton's goalkeeper now has half as many Premier League goals as Andy Carroll, although Howard himself was almost embarrassed by it all. "It is hard for the Bolton keeper, Adam Bogdan," he said. "It is not a nice place to be and it's embarrassing. I feel for him. I've been beaten before by a goalkeeper and it is quite awful."
His manager, too, took no pleasure in Everton's goal or their performance. "You cannot expect to win games playing like that," reflected David Moyes. "Apart from the goalkeeper and bits of Landon Donovan, it is hard to see any positives." Among the many negatives were the loss of three players – Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell – to injury. Jagielka, who left the stadium on crutches, appeared the most badly hurt.
There was a Stars and Stripes in the stands at Goodison to welcome back Donovan for his second loan spell at Everton from LA Galaxy. This, however, was no California. As the teams prepared to kick off in a bitter, rain-slicked wind, Donovan was immediately welcomed with a tackle from Sam Ricketts, who handled the American very well.
David Ngog remained Bolton's most obvious threat and proved it with the equaliser. Preferring him to Kevin Davies has been a brave decision by Coyle, however, and fed by Nigel Reo-Coker, the French striker turned his marker and clipped his shot home surgically. At the other end of the stadium, Bogdan would have blown hard in relief.
Man of the match G Cahill.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Attendance 29,561.Reuse content