Rafa Benitez says Everton must summon the “ideas and principles and intensity” that were the hallmarks of a winning start to their home campaign when Watford visit Goodison Park next week.
Manager Benitez refused to use the absences of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison as mitigation for a defeat by West Ham United on Sunday that cost Everton their unbeaten Goodison record.
Instead, the Spaniard claimed his side paid the price for a mistake when defending the set-piece that led Angelo Ogbonna heading the decisive goal after 74 minutes.
Everton had chances to hit the front, with Alex Iwobi thwarted by an Ogbonna block and Salomon Rondon heading narrowly past the post from a whipped Andros Townsend cross.
But the away team defended strongly and snaffled the points when Italian defender Ogbonna glanced in from a disputed corner.
“We have to learn from this game,” said Benitez, whose side won their opening three home fixtures.
“We were quite good in the other games at home and have to make sure we come back with the same ideas and principles and intensity.
“I am disappointed today… they [West Ham] were moving and passing the ball well but we were organised and had chances in the first-half on the counter-attack.
“We were missing the final pass but had chances.
“They had control but not clear chances
“In the second half, we started better but on set-pieces you have to be stronger.
“At the end, we didn't manage the pressure at 1-0 down, we had to be calmer and try to play in another way.”
Everton ceded the majority of possession to West Ham but the away side only shaded the goal-attempts count.
The Hammers aimed 16 shots to Everton’s 15, albeit the hosts managed only two strikes on target.
“We were quite good with Andros Townsend, Alex Iwobi, Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon, when he came on, linking with Salomon Rondon," said Benitez.
“We were dangerous previously, even with Abdoulaye Doucoure coming from behind, so we have these things we did well in other games.
“Today, we couldn’t do it
“If you have Dominic and Richarlison, it would be easier for us to have more quality in the final third and missing these players means you have less chances to change and have fresh legs on the pitch or to change a game.
“When you play against a good team, it’s more obvious that it’s a problem.
“For now, we have to manage and hopefully soon those players will be with us.
“The fact that we were winning without Richarlison or Dominic means we could have done the same today.
“You play against a good team and then you have some chances, you have to take them.
“If not, you have to carry on.
“We were winning and we have to carry on winning.”
Everton resisted a consistently probing West Ham side early in the match, blocking and intercepting in their own penalty box and indebted to Jordan Pickford for a reaction stop to deny Jarrod Bowen.
Benitez’s side steadily asserted themselves on an attacking front, with Demarai Gray epecially prominent and sending in a low cross that somehow dodged Iwobi in the six-yard box.
Everton began to exert a degree of offensive superiority after the restart without forcing a breakthrough.
And West Ham got their winner when referee Stuart Atwell awarded a corner despite Everton pleas that Michail Antonio knocked the ball over the byline. There were claims, too, that Pickford was illegally impeded by the West Ham striker.
“We knew they could be dangerous from set-pieces, so it was important to not give them the chance, but we gave them two or three corners we could have avoided,” added Benitez.
“They are big and strong in the air.
“And the way that the corner was given, it was more disappointing.
“When you have a player blocking, in this case the keeper in the box, normally it’s a free kick.
“After, you can argue if it’s a corner or not.
“But at the end, with this margin, we made a mistake and conceded and it’s more difficult when you play against a good team.”