24 minutes into Gareth Barry’s 600th Premier League appearance, a Kevin Mirallas corner ricocheted off the back of Alvaro Negredo and into the path of the 35-year-old. Bouncing at pace, and with Barry stood at a tight angle in relation to the goal mouth, he side-footed the ball smartly into the net to draw Everton level with Middlesbrough.
In an instant, the finish was met with jubilation from the home faithful as their team had replied promptly to falling a goal behind. Seconds later there was a standing ovation as the man reaching a remarkable milestone wheeled away in celebration. It perfectly portrayed the affinity and respect Evertonians have developed for the English midfielder.
He was replaced in the 90th minute, to another round of applause. And in-between those two moments of adulation he put in another stellar midfield performance. At 35, and 18 years into his career, Barry is still looking as fresh as ever, as professional as ever, and as good as he ever has been.
Gareth Barry shone in 600th Premier League appearance
Sitting deep in midfield, alongside Idrissa Gueye, Barry has struck up a very good understanding with the Senegalese international. As an end-to-end game ensued in the early stages of the game, Barry and Gueye continuously nicked the ball from Middlesbrough and set up attacks of their own.
Between them, Barry and Gueye totalled 11 tackles and 155 passes.
Shortly after Maarten Stekelenburg conceded a controversial own goal, Barry equalised. After some terrific movement on Mirallas’ corner, Barry found himself unmarked at the back post to sweep home his second of the season. He has now scored as many goals in his last four games as he did in his previous 95.
As Everton went on to score two more in quick succession, Barry remained influential. Always showing for the ball, the 35-year-old dictated the game from the middle third of the pitch. He continuously sprayed the ball wide, where the Toffees were most dangerous.
Seamus Coleman cut in from the right flank to power a left-footed drive beyond Victor Valdes to put Everton ahead. And just before half time, Yannick Bolasie would cross from the same side for Romelu Lukaku to make it 3-1.
Another good win at Goodison Park!Congratulations to Gareth Barry for scoring on his 600th @premierleague appearance pic.twitter.com/d9B1Th6V7W
— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) September 17, 2016
In the second half, Barry and co. kept Middlesbrough at arm’s length. A well-shielded backline was barely troubled, and Everton themselves didn’t exert themselves too much. The game was won, and Barry had 45 minutes to savour a match he won’t want to forget.
As full-time approached, Koeman granted the sell-out home crowd the opportunity to give Barry another well-deserved moment of appreciation. All four sides of Goodison Park stood and applauded. If Barry wasn’t aware before, he was now. He’s become a fan favourite yet again.
Barry can target PL record
A holding midfielder for most of his career, Barry has often evaded the limelight. Or at least, he’s escaped the notice of those who aren’t afforded the chance to see him play regularly. But among Aston Villa fans, Manchester City fans and now Everton, he has been held in the highest regard.
His disciplinary record leaves a lot to be desired. Barry is the most booked player in Premier League history (113). The number of yellow cards he picks up is initially alarming and could be used to argue against his qualities. But of those 113 yellows, it doesn’t reveal how many would have been picked up as a sacrifice to his team, as the opposition mounted a dangerous attack.
Throughout his career, Barry has made an art of the cynical challenge on the halfway line, infuriating opponents, but protecting his own team. In other, more sporting aspects of his game, Barry has an excellent reading of the game, impressive passing range and undoubted professionalism. Underpinning all that, is an outstanding natural fitness that has seen him make 600 Premier League appearances across 18 years.
With seemingly much more left in the tank, and a manager who so clearly rates him, it is now expected he will break the record of 632 Premier League appearances held by Ryan Giggs.