Gustavo Poyet was out of excuses as Sunderland’s FA Cup run reached a disappointing end.
Premier League survival is now the only thing to occupy Black Cat minds after missing out on the chance of a Wembley return.
Three goals in the last 22 minutes saw Hull City reach the semi-finals with relative ease yesterday.
Poyet, who left out Marcos Alonso, Vito Mannone and Ki Sung-Yeung, and put Fabio Borini on the bench, offered no reasons for his team’s lukewarm display.
“We didn’t play well and didn’t create enough,” was his blunt assessment afterwards. “I’m not going to go too deep into the reasons because I will find an excuse, and I don’t want an excuse. We are out.
“No one is going to be asking me what is more important, the cups or the Premier League, because that is it. From now on, we have to get points, somehow.
“When we were in the cup, those games were more important than the league, but now we are not. We are not going to talk about the cup anymore. Now, we look to (Crystal) Palace, the biggest game of the season is on Saturday.
“I invite every single fan in Sunderland to fill the stadium and make sure that we make it very difficult for them. This is the key moment. We are going to train all week and have cancelled a few days off. We are going to prepare the best we can. Then it is up to the 22 players on the pitch and the referee to have a good day.
“We were not good enough in everything, simple. In 50-50s, in diving when you have to dive, in dealing with the referee when he panicked for five minutes, in giving a penalty away, in not recovering well or creating one chance, in not crossing the ball well.
“Everything. When you are not good enough, there is nothing you can do.
“It would be a good excuse for the players to say I made a mistake and picked the wrong team. That would be a good way to hide a disappointing afternoon. I would take it though, like always.”
Poyet has used the FA Cup as an opportunity to give minutes to those players who need it, but Emanuele Giaccherini and Ignacio Scocco were withdrawn little over a minute before Curtis Davies’ opening goal. Oscar Ustari at least earned credit by saving Sone Aluko’s first-half penalty.
When asked if any players had advanced their cause during the run, Poyet “preferred not to answer”.
“Jozy (Altidore) and Valentin (Roberge) have been ill for the last two days,” explained the Uruguayan. “Wes (Brown) didn’t train all week with a little problem in his calf. He wanted to play but hadn’t trained, and Craig Gardner pulled out on Saturday. Wes will be okay for the Palace game – Craig, I am not so sure.”
A couple of chances wasted by Scocco apart, Sunderland created nothing all afternoon.
“In the first 15 minutes it was a cup tie,” said Poyet. “Madness, with bodies flying all over the place. Then we settled down I thought we were the better team, without creating.
“We were in their half, so it was a different game to last week (against Manchester City in the League Cup) where we were always in our half. We were in their half for 20 minutes, but we couldn’t create anything.”
He was also frustrated to see his side capitulate once behind. John O’Shea’s needless foul led to a free-kick where he was outjumped by Curtis Davies, and the next two goals came following Lee Cattermole errors.
Poyet said: “We had to try to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes and the opposition had to do everything to beat us.
“The disappointing thing is how we conceded. When it was 1-0, we had to keep the game alive, but we didn’t. There was no way we were going to score. I don’t think we created half a chance.”
Adding to Sunderland’s frustration was a semi-final draw minutes after the full-time whistle which gave Hull a game against League One Sheffield United to reach the FA Cup final. If they play a side already qualified for Europe there, it will earn them a place in next season’s Europa League.