Liverpool (AFP) – Gareth Barry crowned his 600th Premier League appearance with an equalising goal as Everton came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 3-1 on Saturday and retain second place.
A contested own goal by Everton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg put Boro in front at Goodison Park, but Barry equalised almost immediately for Ronald Koeman’s team.
The 35-year-old former England midfielder became only the third player to reach the milestone of 600 matches in the post-1992 Premier League era after Ryan Giggs (632) and Frank Lampard (609).
Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku struck before half-time, the latter scoring his fourth goal in two games, to give Everton their best ever start to a Premier League season.
Koeman’s men, who remain unbeaten, moved back to within two points of leaders Manchester City, three points clear of Arsenal, Chelsea and local rivals Liverpool.
Ross Barkley had been hooked at half-time of Everton’s 3-0 win at Sunderland on Monday, with Koeman explaining that he had given the ball away too easily.
But the England midfielder kept his place in the starting XI and served early notice of Everton’s intent with a left-foot swerver that was pushed away by visiting goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
It was Boro, though, who took the lead in the 21st minute, and in contentious circumstances.
George Friend sent a high cross into the box from the left, Alvaro Negredo hurled himself at the ball and Stekeleburg, under pressure from the Spanish striker, dropped the ball into his own net.
Everton felt their Dutch goalkeeper had been fouled, but referee Lee Mason waved their protests away.
It took just three minutes for Everton to equalise and their goal, too, bore a whiff of controversy.
Valdes was unable to claim a corner as Ashley Williams leapt towards him with his studs raised and Barry turned the loose ball home at the back post to register his 52nd league goal.
After Yannick Bolasie had headed onto the roof of the net, Coleman put the hosts ahead in the 42nd minute with a fine goal, driving across the box from the right and drilling a shot into the bottom-right corner.
Lukaku hit Boro with a sucker-punch in first-half stoppage time, throwing himself at Bolasie’s in-swinging right-wing cross and getting the faintest of touches to send the ball past Valdes.
Everton took their foot off the pedal in the second half, Barkley testing Valdes in their only chance of note.
With Boro failing to register a single shot on target, Koeman used the opportunity to hand a gentle debut to West Ham United loanee Enner Valencia, who came on in place of Lukaku.
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