Midfielder Gareth Barry marked his 600th Premier League appearance with a goal as Everton’s unbeaten start continued with a win over Middlesbrough which moved them into second place.
The 35-year-old, whose milestone has previously been achieved by only Ryan Giggs (632) and Frank Lampard (609), sparked the hosts’ comeback after goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was controversially adjudged to have conceded an own goal from Alvaro Negredo’s robust, old-school centre-forward’s challenge.
He may be slower than his more sprightly, younger compatriots but the cool-headed Barry reacted quickest to smash home from a corner. Having gone 103 matches without a goal it was the veteran midfielder’s second in four matches.
Full-back Seamus Coleman put Everton ahead with a well-worked second before Romelu Lukaku made it six goals in three games for club and country.
That made it four wins and a draw for manager Ronald Koeman, another summer arrival, with only Manchester City having a better record.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka felt their opening goal, awarded when Negredo robustly challenged Stekelenburg, changed the game in thehosts’ favour.
“Scoring a goal was the problem because after that they were better and we lost our concentration,” he said.
The Spaniard was reluctant to offer his opinion on the validity of the goal, or Ashley Williams’s challenge on Victor Valdes which led to Everton’s equaliser.
“I prefer to say not anything,” he added. “I will focus on my job because we have to let referees do their jobs because it is not easy.”
Everton manager Ronald Koeman hailed the character of his side after recovering from going behind.
“Maybe we needed a yes and no mistake of the referee as after that we showed really good football, were more aggressive,” Koeman said.
“I think Middlesbrough started better but there was great character of the team being 1-0 down at home and it was 3-1 by half-time.
“It was really enjoyable how we played.”
Koeman was critical of Barkley after Monday’s win against Sunderland, when the England midfielder was taken off at half-time.
The response was noticeable.
“I try to be honest about players,” he added.
“You can’t always say what you think about players because you need to keep it inside but he played how I like to see Ross: offensively strong and defensively he worked very hard.
“Maybe in 90 minutes he lost less balls than in the first 10 minutes against Sunderland.
“We had some days after Monday. First of all you have to speak to the player and you need to support him and you expect a reaction.
“Players are not so stupid, they know when they play well and when they don’t. He watched all the clips and we had a good talk and finally it is up to the player.”
Koeman also praised the longevity of Barry after another commanding performance from the 35-year-old.
“It is amazing the number of games Gareth has played and he showed he was a perfect player for the team,” added Koeman.
Goal-scorer Coleman said there was no danger of Everton getting carried away by their impressive start to the season.
“You would rather this start than what we’ve had the past couple of season,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“Winning games breeds confidence and going into the next one we will feel we can win that.
“We’re not looking to the end of the season and where we can finish.
“I know it’s a boring answer but we’re just looking to the next game and go into the international break with two more wins.
“Ronald Koeman expects people to work hard, he expects his forwards to work hard, and he demands respect from everyone and that is what you want from your boss. He tells it like it is and if you can’t take it maybe you shouldn’t be in this job.”