LIVERPOOL - Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill conceded his side was deservedly beaten in Monday's 4-0 loss to Everton at Goodison Park.
The Black Cats had held the Toffees to a goalless first half before going down to strikes from Magaye Gueye, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Victor Anichebe in the second period.
"We were well beaten in the end, well beaten," O'Neill told reporters. "Everton were physically stronger than us and deserved to win. There wasn’t much in it at halftime and I think we were in with a chance. The first goal is of course very important and from where I was I thought it looked a foul on Jack Colback but that said if the game had been decided on that I might have had something to complain about.
"Everton were stronger, played very well and [there was] some great finishing by them but we could have done better."
The former Aston Villa boss also refused to single out the loss of striker Nicklas Bendtner to a hamstring injury prior to the game as an excuse for his side's heavy defeat.
"I don’t think you can talk about one particular player, that’s something that we hope to be able to change in the not too distant future," he added. "The loss of one or two players shouldn’t affect a squad in the Premier League as much as it does."
The Northern Irishman hinted that tiredness may have played its part as the Mackems made just one change to the side which held high-flying Tottenham to a 0-0 draw just two days ago.
"The goals came very, very quickly and they were great goals from their viewpoint but we looked a little bit tired, I must admit," the manager added. "I know you might think this is the same old thing but I’ve got nothing but great regard for the team.
"We were outmuscled today by a strong Everton side who were able to make some changes to the team. Well done them. We’ve got lots to do, lots to learn, but it’s been a great effort in the last few months."
The 60-year-old also underlined that his young squad still has a lot to learn, despite a good run of form since his arrival on Wearside.
When asked whether the defeat conveyed his players' inexperience, he replied: "Absolutely. I don’t need to be beaten by Everton to know that, believe it or not. I don’t think I’d be fooled by that. We’ve got lots of work to do, lots of work. [It's] a big learning curve, particularly for some of the younger lads who have very little experience of this division, it’s a tough old league.
"You look at some of the Everton players who have been around who are very, very good players and that’s why they’re contesting a semifinal and they’re in decent form and they’ve got their players available. So well done them."
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