Cahill’s role as Bolton’s defensive leader was plain to see at Anfield. From kick-off, Cahill was orchestrating his side’s defence, instructing his colleagues when to bring the defensive line further up the pitch, when to drop deeper, and where and when to cover for out of position teammates. Indeed, Cahill even pointed where fellow centre-back Zat Knight should press when he himself was caught out of position by some fleet Luis Suarez footwork; directing the towering Knight while recovering his own ground.
Suarez was a constant thorn in Cahill’s side. For Liverpool’s first goal, Suarez flung a devilish cross into the penalty area from a wide left position, having drawn Cahill away from the centre of the pitch. Cahill could have perhaps closed down Suarez tighter and prevented the cross but, that aside, did little wrong. The Bolton player was showing Suarez down the line and few, Cahill least of all, would have predicted Suarez could produce such a stunning cross with the outside of his right foot.
Playing against a highly-mobile forward line of Suarez and Dirk Kuyt, Cahill’s awareness was severely tested. Both forwards looked to drift wide and make runs from outside in, often leaving Cahill without anyone to mark. But the speed of Suarez’s movement, and to a lesser extent Kuyt, saw that situation change in a flash. While a run from the wing to the centre may primarily be the full-back’s responsibility, Cahill had to be aware to cover the space or defend any resulting cross. Throughout the first-half, however, Suarez was rampant and in that form there was little Cahill – or most other defenders – could do to cope with the Uruguayan.
Minutes into the second-half Cahill made an impressive block to deny Kuyt what would have been a tap-in, stretching inside the six yard box to prevent the Dutchman reaching the ball first in an excellent show of positioning and awareness. Martin Skrtel thumped Liverpool into a 2-0 lead from the resultant corner, but the blame there lay with Knight, not Cahill. With Wanderers soon three goals down, Cahill was arguably the only player in white to give a decent account of himself, blocking another Liverpool effort soon after Charlie Adam netted Liverpool’s third, and later stepping out of the defensive with a timely interception to try and build a Bolton attack.
For the final 15 minutes of the game Cahill faced a much different threat in the lumbering Andy Carroll who replaced Suarez. The giant former Newcastle United striker became the target for a lot of Liverpool’s build-up, played through the air, but the similarly-sized Knight took much of the responsibility. For the rest of the game, however, it was Cahill doing his best to hold Bolton’s back line together, displaying a range of defensive and technical qualities that would make him perfectly suited to Arsenal.