Everton 3-1 Middlesbrough: Toffees extend unbeaten run to five games
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 17/09/16 11:30pm
Everton extended their unbeaten start to life under Ronald Koeman to five games as they came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 3-1 at Goodison Park.
In controversial circumstances, Maarten Stekelenburg's 21st-minute own goal had threatened to derail the hosts' bright start to life under the Dutchman, but, on his 600th Premier League appearance, Gareth Barry hauled Everton level just three minutes later.
From that point, Koeman's side took firm control of the contest as Seamus Coleman's fine individual effort put them ahead before Romelu Lukaku grabbed his fourth goal in two games with their third before half-time.
And the Merseysiders saw out the victory with ease as they moved up to second in the Premier League table, securing their best start to the league campaign since 1978.
Meanwhile, a second successive defeat for Middlesbrough, who failed to register a single shot on target in the game, leaves them in 11th position.
Unsurprisingly, Koeman named the same side that romped to victory at Sunderland on Monday, keeping faith with Ross Barkley after he was hooked at half-time at the Stadium of Light, while Lukaku, fresh from ending his 13-game goal drought, led the attack.
Aitor Karanka, meanwhile, made three changes for the trip to Merseyside as Marten de Roon, Emilio Nsue and Gaston Ramirez were drafted in from the start.
And it was the visitors who started brightly, although Stewart Downing should have done better to head Gaston Ramirez's free-kick goalwards on seven minutes.
After Barkley had stoked up the crowd with a rasping drive on 19 minutes, the Goodison Park faithful were stunned as Boro took the lead two minutes later.
Alvaro Negredo collided with Stekelenburg as the Everton stopper rose to reach a cross tamely, forcing the Dutchman to drop the ball into the unguarded net. Appeals from those in blue fell on deaf ears as referee Lee Mason allowed the goal to stand.
But an aggrieved Everton side rallied and found themselves level with three minutes as Victor Valdes' failure to clear a corner saw the ball drop perfectly for Barry six yards out, and the midfielder had the simple task of stroking the ball home on his landmark day.
A frenetic 10-minute period was followed by a lull as both sides drew breath, but Coleman sparked the game back into life on 42 minutes.
Having taken Lukaku's flick into his stride, the Irishman danced inside Daniel Ayala's challenge before picking out the bottom corner of the Boro goal with an unerring finish.
Two quickly became three as Lukaku got the faintest of touches on Yannick Bolasie's teasing cross on the stroke of half-time as Everton waltzed into the interval in the driving seat.
Everton started the second period in the same vein, dominating possession against a Boro side who looked lost for ideas.
But they failed to score a fourth and, once Lukaku had left the field to injury on 64 minutes, their intensity dropped, leading the game to peter out.
Boro managed to mount a late rally but, with the damage was already done before the break, there was no danger Everton would surrender their fourth victory of the season on another encouraging outing for Koeman.
Everton: Stekelenburg (5), Coleman (8), Jagielka (7), Williams (7), Baines (7), Gana (9), Barry (8), Mirallas (7), Barkley (8), Bolasie (7), Lukaku (7).
Subs used: Deulofeu (6), Cleverley (n/a), Valencia (6).
Middlesbrough: Valdes (6), Barragan (7), Ayala (6), Gibson (6), Friend (6), de Roon (5), Forshaw (6), Nsue (4), Ramirez (5), Downing (6), Negredo (5).
Subs used: Clayton (n/a), Fischer (4), Nugent (6).
Man of the match: Idrissa Gueye.