5 Talking Points | West Brom 1-2 Everton: Barry seals win in 100th game

Gareth Barry scored the winner on his 100th appearance for Everton as the Toffees came from behind at the Hawthorns.

Gareth McAuley put the hosts in charge after 9 minutes, rising highest with a back post header.

But Everton grew into the game and equalised in first half stoppage time. Kevin Mirallas started a neat move on the edge of the box and duly finished it with a low shot under Ben Foster.

And in the second half Barry headed home what was to be the winner at the far post after an hour. Everton should have made safe the points with a third and fourth; Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku each spurning gilt edged chances.

Holgate “showing his qualities”

Before Wayne Rooney’s testimonial Koeman told Holgate to “go and show your qualities” at Old Trafford. Since that assured shackling of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the 19 year-old has made two Premier League appearances since then. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’d made 200.

The former Barnsley man is certainly taking on his manager’s advice. Not fazed by the exeprienced older heads around him (Gareth Barry made his 597th Premier League appearance at West Brom), Holgate looked perfectly at home in a back three and equally assured when moved to right back.

Making two successful interceptions, two tackles and two blocks, Holgate stood up to the challenge of the experienced James McClean in the second half. As comfortable on the ball as he is winning it, Everton were able to keep possession and build attacks from his actions.

After a jittery first half hour on his Premier League debut against Spurs, Holgate appears to have have kept the words of his manager firmly in mind: “It doesn’t matter if you are 19 years old or are 36 years old, go and show your qualities. And he did.” He really did.

Defensive frailties not yet banished

The two goals conceded by the Toffees so far this season have come from crosses, a theme from last season Everton seem so far unable to shake off.

As in West Brom’s smash and grab at Goodison Park earlier in the year, the goal owed to a flat-footed and ball-watching rearguard. There’s a reasonable claim that Maarten Stekelenburg was fouled but McAuley was able to jump highest at the far post without much in the way of a challenge.

Everton under Koeman certainly look less frail than Roberto Martinez’s pushovers, but question marks are still being raised when dealing with crosses and set-pieces. Koeman is well aware of this,and the recruitment of Ashley Williams will no doubt go a long way to making Everton less susceptible from corners and free-kicks.

Koeman’s tactical bravery

Everton lined up with the same personnel and in the same 3-5-2 formation as they did in their season opener, but with the anthropromorphised Easter Island statues of Jonas Olsson and McAuley blocking their path, Everton’s lightweight forwards found it tough going.

So it was pleasing that Koeman, unhappy with Gerard Deulofeu’s ineffectiveness decided after 38 minutes that enough was enough. Lukaku entered the fray for James McCarthy and suddenly Everton had a focal point to their play, in a more conventional 4-4-2. While the Belgian occupied Olsson, space began to appear for the buzzing Barkley, Deulofeu and Mirallas, the latter hitting the equaliser just before half time.

And as the Toffees headed into the final 10 minutes with a precious lead to protect, Williams’ introduction saw Koeman revert back to 3-5-2. That the players are responding so well to such changes is testament to the work done on the training pitch, as much as to the Dutchman’s decisive action.

Blues will have tougher tests

Getting your first 3 points of the season on the board as early as possible is vital for confidence, and coming from behind to do so makes the win even more special.

But while winning most certainly is everything, Koeman will know that there will be sterner tests to come. Teams with more talent in their coaching staff than West Brom have in their matchday squad will come to Goodison over the season, and a wasteful and at times frail Everton will have to improve.

Rom showed fight, but quality must return

If the British press are to be believed (and we know that most of the time they are not) Everton look set to keep their goal-scoring Belgian. His introduction helped turn the game in Everton’s favour and last season’s top scorer put his body on the line for the Blue cause.

But his was a display mostly lacking in match sharpness and quality. Despite glimpses of promise with new boy Yannick Bolasie, Lukaku’s link up play was generally sloppy, and firing straight at Foster might have cost Everton had West Brom been more clinical.

But Blues should be confident that the Belgian will come good. A fully-focused and match fit Lukaku is a handful for any defence. As long as he’s still playing in L4 once the window shuts, fans can look forward to another season of goals.

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