Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Is There Anyone More Clutch than Tim Cahill?

Timmy Cahill's 85th minute goal today against Zenit St. Petersburg propelled Everton into the Round of 32 in the 2007-2008 edition of Europe's second tier club competition, the UEFA Cup.

The Australian international's tally this afternoon got me thinking, and when I sat down and tossed a few names around in my head, I couldn't come up with any player more clutch than Cahill. There is no one I'd rather want on my team when I need a goal with 10 minutes or so left in a game, whether it be an equalizer or a winner.

A few recent cases in point:

June 12, 2006: Australia was down 1-0 to Japan in the opening group stage match for both teams in the 2006 World Cup, and Cahill came on in the 52nd minute as a substitute. In a group with Brazil and Croatia, this was a game Australia simply could not afford to lose if they had any hope of advancing to the Round of 16. Cahill's 84th minute tally from close range to equalize was dramatic enough, but he took it one notch further just five minutes later when he scored again to snatch full points for the Socceroos.

July 8, 2007: Australia was minutes, if not seconds away from what would have been an embarrassing loss to Oman in the opening group stage match for both teams in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. Again, a loss there would have really dealt Australia a serious blow towards qualifying for the next round in a competition they were expected to win. Cahill, again on as a substitute (due to injury, he wasn't fit to play all 90 minutes but would have if he was healthy), scored in the 92nd minute to give Australia a point. That late equalizer was huge because both Australia and Thailand had 4 points from 3 games in the group stage, but Australia went through with a better goal differential. Without that point, Australia would have likely finished behind Thailand and Oman to finish 4th out of 4.

We've seen what he's done for his country, and he's done it for his club as well.

October 31, 2007: It was the 4th Round of the Carling Cup and Everton had a tricky matchup at Luton Town. After 90 minutes, the score was still 0-0 and extra time was needed to determine which team would move on in England's second tier domestic competition. Cahill had come on as a substitute again (in the 77th minute), and in the 101st minute, he came up with yet another big goal to put Everton ahead and the Toffees held Luton off for the last 19 minutes to advance to their first Carling Cup quarterfinal in 19 years.

November 11, 2007: Not only did Cahill score another late goal for Everton, this one might end up as the goal of the Premiership season this year. Everton were losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in a game that Chelsea were taking it to the Toffees. Chelsea outshot Everton 16-6 (10-2 in shots on goal) and had a 59%-41% advantage in time of possession. None of this mattered to Cahill, and his spectacular overhead kick in the 90th minute gave Everton an undeserved, but much applauded, share of the spoils. He didn't come on as a sub in this game, but who cares?

I did some research on ESPN Soccernet in preparation for this post, and although I've given four examples of Cahill's aptitude for late-game heroics, his résumé is even more impressive. Of the 38 goals Cahill has scored for club and country in competitive matches since the 2004-2005 season, a whopping 11 of them have been late-game (75th minute or later) equalizers or game-winners. Overall, 20 of those 38 goals fit into either of those two categories.

I can't think of anyone more clutch than Tim Cahill. If you can, feel free to leave a comment and explain your reasoning for whomever you choose.

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