Everton manager David Moyes criticised referee Lee Mason for having a “poor” game but accepted the official was not the cause behind his side’s 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke.
Robert Huth scored the only goal of the match, turning Dean Whitehead’s 15th-minute shot past Tim Howard.
Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini should probably have had a penalty when he was man-handled by Ryan Shawcross in the area just before half-time but Mason, despite being in a good position, did not see it.
Stoke’s physical approach to defending, especially within 18 yards of their own goal, led to frustrations growing among Everton’s players but Moyes admitted they had not done enough to force an equaliser.
“I thought the referee had a poor game,” said the Scot.
“It is not the reason for our loss - far from it because that was down to our inability to make and take [chances].
“But there was a lot going on in the box and we got very little of it.”
In a match of few chances Everton enjoyed more possession, certainly in the second half, but failed to trouble Thomas Sorensen and, when he was carried off on a stretcher after a clash with Tim Cahill late in the second half, Asmir Begovic.
“We huffed and puffed a little bit but I don’t think we conceded many chances to Stoke today,” added Moyes.
“We weren’t peppered and lost the game that way. We defended a corner but didn’t defend the edge of the box and they get the shot and the flick in. We hadn’t done an awful lot wrong and we found ourselves a goal down.
“I don’t think we deserved to be behind in the game but we had to go chasing it.
“What wins games is goals and they got the goal and we didn’t.”
Moyes had to give teenager Apostolos Vellios, the club’s leading scorer with three, only his second start for the club after striker Louis Saha pulled out with injury.
“He’s got a thigh strain. I don’t think it is that serious, it is a minor thigh strain,” said the Everton boss.
“We knew he had a bit of a tweak but he trained with us on Saturday and we expected him to be fit but he felt it.”
Stoke made it back-to-back league wins, sandwiched between a Europa League draw at home to Dynamo Kiev.
It was also only their second league victory on the back of a European match.
“This was a real battling performance against a good Everton team,” said manager Tony Pulis. “It has been a great week for the club. To get six points and to qualify for the latter stages of the Europa League is first class.
Steven Fletcher’s second-half double helped Wolves to a 2-1 victory over Sunderland.