‘Special’ Barry marks sparks Toffees comeback

LIVERPOOL — Gareth Barry is the perfect player for Everton, manager Ronald Koeman said after the midfielder scored in his 600th Premier League appearance to help the club beat Middlesbrough 3-1 on Saturday.

The 35-year-old former England midfielder became only the third player to reach 600 matches in the post-1992 Premier League era after Ryan Giggs (632) and Frank Lampard (609).

After goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg’s own goal in the 21st minute at Goodison Park, Barry marked his milestone with a goal three minutes later to level.

Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku also struck before halftime, the latter scoring his fourth goal in two games, to give Everton their best ever start to a Premier League season.

“It’s amazing the number of games Gareth has played and he proved to be a perfect player,” Koeman said.

“Scoring to make it 1-1 was an important moment and it was a special day for Gareth. Even more special, he scored and the team won.”

The 35-year-old Barry, who has also played for Aston Villa and Manchester City, won 53 caps for England.

“He’s very crucial. He’s not a big talker in the dressing room but his quality on the pitch, the cleverness on the pitch is important,” Koeman said.

“It’s also important for Gareth if the team is playing very compact he doesn’t need to run a lot of distance and he is still one of the best midfield players.”

Boro took the lead in the 21st minute.

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.

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, driving across the box from the right and drilling a shot into the bottom-right corner.

Lukaku hit Boro with a sucker punch in firsthalf stoppage time, throwing himself at Bolasie’s in-swinging rightwing cross and getting the faintest of touches to send the ball past Valdes. — Agencies

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