Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill paid tribute to Everton after they thumped his side 4-0 in the English Premier League on Monday.
Sunderland – who have not beaten Everton in the Premier League since December 2001 – were torn apart in the second half as Magaye Gueye, Steven Pienaar, Leon Osman and Victor Anichebe all netted after the break.
O’Neill felt his side were tired and questioned Gueye’s opener, but also praised Everton’s finishing in front of goal.
“We were well beaten in the end,” O’Neill said.
“Everton were physically stronger than us and deserved to win. There wasn’t much in it at half-time and I thought we were in with a chance. The first goal was very important.
“From where I was I thought it looked a foul on Jack Colback, so if the game had been decided on that I might have had something to complain about. But Everton played very well and there was some great finishing by them.
“We could have done better. We looked a little bit tired. Everton were able to make some changes to their team. We’ve got lots to learn but it’s been a big effort in the last three or four months.”
Everton assistant manager Steve Round was delighted with the efforts of his players but felt the result will have no bearing on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against local rivals Liverpool at Wembley.
Round also labelled Liverpool as ‘favourites’ for the much-anticipated clash.
“You’re better off being confident going into any game, of course,” Round said.
“But I think a semi-final at Wembley is a one-off, and I think a local derby is a one-off, so put the two together and there’s always that element of FA Cup fate.
“Whether you’ve got momentum or not, I’m not sure it matters – it’s all on the day.
“I think they are favourites. They’ve got so many great players and they’re such a good football club with history and tradition, but we’re a lot closer to them than we were.”