Manager Martin O’Neill bemoaned Aston Villa’s misfortune as their first domestic defeat in 16 matches resulted in their FA Cup elimination.

Everton avenged Villa’s 3-2 Premier League victory in December with a 3-1 win in the fifth-round tie at Goodison Park. It ended an undefeated sequence of league and FA Cup matches dating back to the reverse at Middlesbrough on November 9.

However, O’Neill felt his team had done enough to force a replay and suggested they should have been in the hat for the quarter-final draw.

Goals from Jack Rodwell, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill clinched victory for Everton and a last-eight home tie against West Ham United or Middlesbrough. James Milner scored what proved to be a consolation for Villa.

“I thought we deserved something,” said O’Neill. “It was a frenetic start to the game. We were behind after a few minutes, got the equaliser and were a goal behind again. I thought once the game settled, we started to gain control.

“I thought we had three great chances to equalise, particularly in the second half and we should have scored just before half-time.”

O’Neill hailed the spirit of Everton and Villa and is backing both teams to continue putting pressure on the established leading lights of English football.

“Everton are the only club to have broken the top four and I’ve got the utmost regard for them and the way they are run,” added O’Neill, who will now turn his attention to Villa’s Premier League and Uefa Cup campaigns.

“Coming here was exceptionally difficult, but I didn’t fear it because I thought we could win the game. Everton have been terrific and the likes of ourselves and Everton have a spirit that you’re hoping can overcome certain things.

“But it doesn’t overcome everything. You need to have ability. We need a wee bit of luck and players fit and we’ll need all of those things for us to do it.”

Report, Page 46