Everton manager Ronald Koeman hailed the character of his side and the immediate improvement in Ross Barkley after a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough took his side second in the Premier League.
After goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg’s controversial own goal, Gareth Barry, on his 600th Premier League appearance, equalised before Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku – who later went off with an injury to his big toe – turned things around before half-time.
“Maybe we needed a yes and no mistake of the referee as after that we showed really good football, were more aggressive,” Koeman said.
“I think Middlesbrough started better but there was great character of the team being 1-0 down at home and it was 3-1 by half-time.
“It was really enjoyable how we played.”
Koeman was critical of Barkley after Monday’s win Sunderland, when the England midfielder was taken off at half-time, but the response was noticeable.
“I try to be honest about players,” he added.
“You can’t always say what you think about players because you need to keep it inside but he played how I like to see Ross: offensively strong and defensively he worked very hard.
“Maybe in 90 minutes he lost less balls than in the first 10 minutes against Sunderland.
“We had some days after Monday. First of all you have to speak to the player and you need to support him and you expect a reaction.
“Players are not so stupid, they know when they play well and when they don’t. He watched all the clips and we had a good talk and finally it is up to the player.”
Koeman also praised the longevity of Barry after another commanding performance from the 35-year-old.
“It is amazing the number of games Gareth has played and he showed he was a perfect player for the team,” said the Toffees boss.