Rafa Benitez says Everton will grow more “solid and consistent” – but the manager couldn’t mask his disappointment following a Carabao Cup penalty shootout exit at QPR.
Everton hit back twice to draw in 90 minutes in west London.
But after eight penalties apiece it was the home side who booked a spot in round four.
Benitez’s team have four days to dust themselves down before aiming for a third straight home victory when Norwich City visit Goodison Park on Saturday.
Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes were withdrawn in the second half on Tuesday as precautionary measures after both players sustained “little calf problems”.
“I am very pragmatic, I am disappointed – I will be disappointed maybe today and tomorrow but I will start working already on the next game and it is another challenge for us,” Benitez told evertontv.
“If we work in the same way we did today and the attitude is similar, we will improve the other things and, little by little, the team will be more consistent, more solid.
“I think, overall, I am quite happy. We had nine [poor] minutes against Aston Villa and today maybe a couple of situations… but the team is doing quite well. We always we want to do a little bit better, though.
“I understand we have to take the positives but I am really disappointed because these games you have to win.
“For us, it was like a cup final – and we did everything to win apart from the accuracy in the final third, or defending the way we want to."
Everton have scored two or more goals in six of their seven matches across the competitions this season.
But after drawing a blank at Aston Villa, where Benitez felt his side were let down by final-third decision making, the Spaniard insisted Everton could have added to goals from Digne and Andros Townsend against QPR with more precision in attack.
More could have been done, too, to prevent a twin first-half strike from QPR forward Charlie Austin, in Benitez’s view.
“We have to work on both [defence and attack],” said Benitez.
“The most difficult thing to improve, normally, is in attack because it depends on the quality of players, but we are creating chances, so I am sure we will score goals.
“But in defence we have to be more aware of what is going on around and be sure we defend as a team. Be strong in defence and that will give you the possibility to win games.
“You have to take momentum from being a solid team.
“I think the way we played, the intensity of the game, the attitude of the players to come back twice…so many things we did well, in terms of what we are expecting from the team.
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HIGHLIGHTS: QPR 2-2 EVERTON
“It is a pity we didn’t take the chances in the final third and in the other box we conceded goals maybe we could have avoided.
"In the penalty shootout, we did everything we have to – scoring goals, young players, everyone – so, overall, I think it is a pity. It is a game we deserved to win.”
Everton scored their opening seven penalties but goalkeeper Seny Dieng’s save from Tom Davies opened the door for Jimmy Dunne to blast in the winning kick.
The away side trailed twice in normal time, levelling on the half hour when Digne volleyed home Townsend’s lobbed pass and equalising a second time when Townsend clinically finished two minutes after the break.
Forward Townsend has directly contributed to six goals from the same number of starts this term.
“I will say today. the offensive players, all of them were doing a great job – creating chances, working hard, even defending well – because the idea was to manage the pressing depending on them,” said Benitez.
“To miss a penalty is something that can happen to anyone. So many penalties…someone has to miss. In terms of his [Davies’] attitude, it was right and I am sure he will be ready and working hard tomorrow to be sure he is ready for the next game.”
On Gomes and Digne, Benitez added: “It was a little problem with the calf for both, so I don’t expect they will be very serious.
“But just in case it was best to be cautious with that.”