Gareth Barry was on target in his 600th Premier League appearance to help Everton to a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The 35-year-old has made an appearance in every Premier League season since making his debut in 1997-98 and it was his equaliser midway through the first half that led Everton to victory.
Barry’s strike came three minutes after Boro had gone a goal up in curious fashion when Everton goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg dropped the ball into his own net after colliding with Alvaro Negredo.
After Barry’s rapid response, goals from Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku saw the hosts grab a decisive lead before the interval as Boro proved unable to threaten going forward, not recording a single shot on target all game.
It is the first time in Premier League history that Everton have won four of their first five games and collected as many as 13 points at this stage, with Ronald Koeman’s men trailing leaders Manchester City by just two points.
Middlesbrough went 1-0 up in the 21st minute following a controversial own goal from Stekelenburg.
The Dutchman looked set to collect George Friend’s cross from the left without any issues, only for Negredo to jump into him and knock the ball out of his hands and over the goalline, with referee Lee Mason ignoring the Everton players’ calls for a foul.
Everton immediately went in search of an equaliser and Barry levelled in the 24th minute following some unconvincing goalkeeping from Victor Valdes.
The former Barcelona man failed to hold on to a corner from the left and palmed the ball straight into the path of Barry, who made no mistake to fire home from a narrow angle.
Koeman’s side remained well in charge and they deservedly went 2-1 up minutes before the interval via Coleman.
The Republic of Ireland international cut inside from the right before playing a clever one-two with Lukaku, beating a defender and finding the net with a low shot into the near corner.
Not content with a one-goal lead at half-time, Everton kept on pushing for more and they made it 3-1 in first-half stoppage time.
Yannick Bolasie was the architect with a fine cross from the left and Lukaku did just enough to divert the ball past Valdes after escaping the offside trap.
The Toffees made a strong start to the second half and Ross Barkley nearly netted a fourth goal with a powerful, low strike from a narrow angle, but Valdes did well to deny the attacking midfielder and hold the ball.
Lukaku was then forced off with what seemed like a minor knock as Enner Valencia came on to make his Everton debut.
Stewart Downing and Viktor Fischer had efforts blocked inside the final 10 minutes but there were no more goals to be seen.
Barry received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Tom Cleverley in the 91st minute, Everton maintaining their impressive start to the campaign by seeing out a comfortable win.
Key Opta stats:
– Gareth Barry became only the third player to make 600 Premier League appearances (also Ryan Giggs, 632 and Frank Lampard, 609).
– Seamus Coleman netted his first league goal at Goodison Park in his last 32 appearances at the ground (since scoring at home v Aston Villa v October 2014).
– Romelu Lukaku has now scored against 21 different teams in the Premier League.