MARTIN O’Neill was short and to the point in the wake of Sunderland’s awful second-half collapse at Everton yesterday.
“We were well beaten in the end,” he said. “Well beaten.
“Everton were physically stronger than us and deserved to win.”
It was pointed out to him that the loss of in-form Nicklas Bendtner to a back injury before the game hardly helped Sunderland’s cause. But the manager wasn’t convinced by that line of reasoning.
“I don’t think you can talk about the loss of one particular player or even two or three players – it shouldn’t unduly affect a Premier League squad,” he said.
“There wasn’t much in it at half-time and I thought we were in with a chance. The first goal of course was always going to be very important.
“From where I was, I thought it looked like a foul on Jack Colback in the build-up, but that said, if the game had been decided on just that, then I might have had something to complain about.
“But Everton were stronger overall, played very well and there was some great finishing by them but we could have done better.
“The goals came very, very quickly and they were great goals from their viewpoint but we looked a bit tired I must admit.
“I know it sounds like the same old thing – me saying I have nothing but great regard for my team – but I have to admit we were out-muscled on the day by a strong Everton side.
“They were able to make some changes to their side, well done them, but we have lots to do, lots to do and lots to learn. It has been a big effort over the last five months.
“I know that there is lots of progress to be made – I don’t need to be beaten by Everton to realise that, believe it or not. We need to do more.
“It’s a big learning curve, particularly for some of the younger lads with very little experience.
“You look at some of the Everton players who have been around and who are very good players, they are in decent form and that’s why they’re contesting an FA Cup semi-final.”