Everton manager Sam Allardyce was keen to emphasise the positives of his side's 3-1 home defeat by runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City on Saturday.
Allardyce was impressed by his players' refusal to capitulate after falling 3-0 behind in a first half completely dominated by City. As quoted on Everton's official website, he said: "I think the lads stuck to their task and worked as hard as they possibly could to try to get back in the game.
“We regrouped and worked hard to defend together - we started to attack together, we started to play the right balls in the right areas."
Allardyce also claimed his second half substitutions had contributed to his side's improved display in the second half, in which Yannick Bolasie's strike reduced the deficit.
"I think Tom [Davies] and the Beni [Baningime] coming on gave us fresh legs. That gave us a bit more impetus and got us on the ball a bit more," he said.
Yet Allardyce did not hide his disappointment with Everton's lack of sharpness at both ends of the pitch early in the first half, with Bolasie missing a golden opportunity just before City doubled their advantage: "We had a great chance which would have made it 1-1 and then worse still we conceded a goal which we could have avoided."
Ultimately, however, the Everton manager sounded philosophical about the defeat, acknowledging the gulf in class between his side and Manchester City.
10 - Manchester City are the 10th team to have beaten all other teams in a single English top-flight season, and first since Man Utd in 2010-11. Set.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 31, 2018
He said, "You can only admire the quality of the team that is 16 points ahead in the league.
"They can win the title next week so you’ve got to respect the opposition for what they are - and they’ve been far too good for everyone this year.”