Barry leads the charge to consolidate 2nd place

By Michael Kenrick 17/09/2016  168 Comments  [Jump to last]

Ross Barkley keeps his place in the side after being substituted at half-time against Sunderland on Monday
Everton 3 - 1 Middlesbrough

Everton celebrated Gareth Barry making his 600th Premier League appearance with an unchanged team from the Monday outing to Sunderland. Barkley retained his starting place, with a strong-looking bench ready to answer Koeman's calls.

Enner Valencia was named as one of the substitutes, preferred over Arouna Kone, while Cleverley reappears, edging out Tom Davies. Funes Mori and Holgate must bide their time with Williams and Jagielka forming and increasingly strong partnership at the back. A former product of the Everton Academy, Adam Forshaw, figured for the visitors.

Boro drove forward from the kick-off and won the first corner, Barry heading it away. Everton's early play was fairly scrappy as they looked to settle, playing it out of the back and looking for Barkley, who needed to show more drive. Coleman fouled Friend wide right, the free-kick delivered well and flicked on by Downing but wide.

Boro were doing an effective job of keeping Everton away from their area, while pressing high into Everton's half. A little too much pass the parcel when the home side did get the ball, Barkley eventually taking the initiative but again the ball was played backwards until a loose pass forward yielded possession.

Forshaw was onto Barkley as he turned and advanced. Play was tight down the right but Gana won a corner on 13 minutes, Mirallas putting in a nice one that Jagielka headed behind off his shoulder. Everton were still unable to penetrate forward, and Barry lost the ball, almost in with a shot on Stekelenburg. Bolasie had a chance to release Lukaku but overhit the pass, as the Blues struggled to find their rhythm.

Barkley was playing deep and got space to move but chose to pass rather than advance but at least the Blues finally drove into the Boro area from open play, but only briefly. But much better play followed, with Barkley making space and hammering a very hard shot at Valdes to enliven the crowd. Next, Barkley fed Mirallas, who ran on and shot at Valdes, the tempo improving by another notch.

But a cross in from Boro, Negredo appeared to head it out of Steklnburg's hands and into the the net... was it actually a foul? cf Andy Gray in the 1984 FA Cup Final for Everton. Stekelenburg was booked for dissent as the Blues tried in vain to persuade Lee Mason to rule the goal out.

From another good Mirallas corner, the ball ricocheted around the Boro goal area, fell to Barry and a superb left-foot strike from a tight angle into the roof of the Boro net put Everton level again after just two minutes, Williams possibly fouling Valdes in the process.

Much more spirited play form Everton saw Barkley advance and create another chance for himself (rather than playing it back to an expectant Lukaku on the edge of the area) firing sharply but over. Everton continued to press well, finally pushing Boro back deep. Some excellent play from Barry, robbing Negredo, as the fans on 30 minutes celebrated the life of 30-year season ticket holder Derek Acker, who died at the Stoke game.

Gana was scythed down in midfield, but the free-kick was cleared; however, most of the play was now in the Boro half, with Everton looking for their second goal, Barkley doing well to pass to Lukaku's feet, but the Big Man was being tightly marked, as Everton allowed their build-up play to slow down again. But Barkley turned his man and drove in, taking perhaps and extra touch that allowed defenders to get in and block his shot.

More pass the parcel at the back as the Blues sought to make space but Boro were making it difficult and the Blues were far from controlling things. Boro were allowed to charge forward, the shot flying high over the bar. Barkley started another forward move but it broke down, however, Coleman picked up the ball and showed how it should be done, skipping along the line of the Boro area and slotting nicely beyond Valdes, just inside the post.

Downing tried to make amends, his hard shot flying off Jagielka for a corner, the Blues needing to be solid at the back. Bolasie did well to dispossess Friend but then lost the ball. Forshaw then went in with studs showing on Ashley Williams. Good play from Gana and Boalsie saw the ball crossed to Lukaku in an advanced position, and he claimed a touch as the ball bounced past Valdes into the net. Barry was booked for blocking Barragan as the Blues went in at the break with a handsome two-goal lead.

No changes at the break and it was Barkley in an advanced position, wrongly called offside. Lukaku looked to break forward but was driven wide as the Blues pressed well from the off. Bolasie did well to get wide but his cross was not good enough. Coleman chased a lost ball and almost made it pay off. But the game was scrappy with an ugly spell of head-tennis until Baines got forward, winning a corner. Barkley with some great play, setting up Mirallas not once but twice, both wasted.

Barkley did very well to win the ball and jink into space before lashing a low shot that Valdes had to save down to his right. David Nugent came on for Boro as Everton's tempo of passing slowed around the hour mark.

Barkley and Gana did well to stifle a run of Nugent but the ball was not rolling well for the Blues as Boro had something of a resurgence. Mirallas finally ran at the red shirts, the ball bouncing off Lukaku then Barkley with neither taking a shot. Lukaku was kicked in the leg, and it was the opportunity for Enner Valencia to make his Everton debut.

Everton looked better for the fresh legs of Valenacia who tried to set up Barkley, Barragan tackling him for a corner. More fresh legs as Deulofeu replaced Mirallas, who had put in a pretty good stint, having lost 13 lbs under instruction from Koeman!

The imperative seemed to have waned, however, judging by the awful cross put in by Bolasie after some good work in the build-up. Given the ball again, Bolasie ran into a cul-de-sac and gave up possession, leading to a cross that Stekelenburg had to field. Boro had not given up by any means and the Blues were in danger of becoming complacent. Stekelenburg was forced to punch as Boro put in a good spell of attacking play.

Barkley again tried to get the Blues going forward but Bolasie stalled and went backward, inviting more Boro attacks. It was walking pace at times as the Blues payed it back to Stekelenburg far too often and showed no forward intent, with 10 minutes still left.

It was fairly uneventful as Everton ran down the cliock, Gareth Barry going off to a tremendous ovation as 2 minutes of added time were played out sealing a solid win on the back of a rather restrained second half that could have been much better. Still, 3 points consolidate 2nd place behind Manchester City.

Everton (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg [Y:23']; Coleman, Williams, Jagielka, Baines; Gueye, Barry [Y:45'] (90' Cleverley); Mirallas (72' Deulofeu), Barkley, Bolasie; Lukaku (66' Valencia).
Subs not Used: Robles, Lennon, Funes Mori, Holgate.

Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Valdes; Barragan, Ayala [Y:37'], Gibson, Friend; De Roon, Forshaw (84' Clayton); Nsue (56' Nugent), Ramirez (70' Fischer) , Downing; Negredo.
Subs not Used: Guzan, Espinosa, Chambers,T raore.

Referee: Lee Mason

Attendance: 39,074

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