Carlo Ancelotti insists Everton have “no regrets” following Saturday’s FA Cup exit to Manchester City – and the experience of competing with “the best team in the world” will spur his team’s European push.
Everton limited the Premier League leaders to a handful of clear opportunities and had chances to stun Pep Guardiola’s team at Goodison Park.
Ancelotti’s side denied City space and time and over 90 relentless minutes gave their opponents a test visiting manager Guardiola counted as “one of our toughest in the past year”.
Everton remained in the hunt for a semi-final place until two late goals from City.
Ilkay Gundogan headed into an empty net after Joao Virginia turned an Ayemeric Laporte strike onto the bar.
And with Everton committing bodies forward, substitute Kevin De Bruyne ran through in the closing 60 seconds to secure City’s win.
“We were almost there. I think we did well, we did the best we can do, defending well and fighting,” said Ancelotti.
“We had the game under control for at least for 80 minutes, we didn't concede opportunities.
🇵🇹 @1JoaoVirginia 👏pic.twitter.com/MkesJYsOSY— Everton (@Everton) March 20, 2021
“Of course, we didn't have a lot of opportunities, some set pieces, but that was absolutely normal.
“I am satisfied because we competed well against the best team in the world, in this moment, I think they are the best.
“We are upset because we are out of an important competition… but it was a good experience for us.
“I think there are no regrets. The regrets are the game against Burnley, where we didn't use this type of concentration, or the game against Fulham [Premier League defeats in the past five weeks].”
Everton twice came close to opening the scoring before half-time against a City side that came to L4 in search of a 25th win from 26 matches.
Richarlison twisted his body to send an overhead kick skimming over goalkeeper Zack Steffen’s crossbar.
And one minute before the break, Yerry Mina’s header from a Lucas Digne corner was cleared off the line by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
City circulated the ball – they had 74-per-cent possession – but rarely cut through the strong and disciplined home team.
Virginia, making only his second senior start with frontline keepers Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen missing through injury, scrambled down to tip a Raheem Sterling effort around his left post in the second half.
The Portuguese, composed and authoritative all night, was otherwise barely extended until applying a touch to Laporte’s rising drive with six minutes remaining.
Gundogan converted on the rebound and De Bruyne, on for Sterling, extinguished Everton’s Cup ambitions.
Ancelotti’s side return to action in a fortnight when they welcome Crystal Palace to Goodison, the first of 10 remaining Premier League games, with possibilities of European qualification still very much alive.
“We have 10 games in the league and want to fight for our position in Europe next season,” said Ancelotti.
“We defended really well and didn’t concede chances for 80 minutes and I am proud of my players, they did their best.
“We wanted to keep Manchester City uncomfortable. Of course, they were comfortable with the ball but we defended well, we were focused and didn't concede space.
“We played the game that we wanted to play but they have the best team and the best bench in the world.
“My players have improved a lot this season... the game today showed there is different quality but with strong concentration and good defensive organisation, we are able to compete with the best teams.
“Manchester City is not a normal team, they are the best.”
On the performance of 21-year-old Virginia, Ancelotti added: “He did really well, he showed his quality, he has no experience but the quality and personality he has, he showed in training.
“I'm pleased for his performance. He's always worked really well, really hard, really focused. I think he deserves the compliments.”
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HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY