Everton left to reflect on what might have been

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The Independent Football

Collina, who allegedly told irate Everton players not to question the decision of "the best referee in the world" when he disallowed the late Duncan Ferguson header that could have secured extra time on Wednesday night, has had smoother exits. He has also had better nights than he had in the El Madrigal Stadium.

While Collina can move on to his next assignment unaffected, however, Everton are left to reflect on what might have been - a 2-1 defeat, 4-2 on aggregate - and must restart their season without the lure of Champions' League football.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, has to unearth a consistent goalscorer in the next five days. Suggestions that he now has the added problem of massaging the morale of dispirited players, however, have been swiftly denied.

"I don't think our confidence will suffer because of this result because we have shown we can play against the top teams," insisted Mikel Arteta, scorer of the legitimate goal that almost transformed the game.

"They put us under a lot of pressure but we coped well. We created chances and we were very unlucky with the result. It was not an honest result. The second goal was absolutely perfect, there was nothing wrong with it, and we should have won 2-1 in normal time. Villarreal are an excellent team but we got ourselves into a position to finish them and win the tie."

It was Arteta who delivered the 81st-minute corner that Ferguson powered beyond Mariana Barbosa in the Villarreal goal and who led the protests once Collina intervened.

"I am so frustrated with him. Duncan did nothing wrong. I asked him why he had disallowed the goal but he just said: 'Walk away, walk away'. Afterwards he said he spotted a foul before the corner, but then why didn't he blow before I took the corner?"

The implications of Everton's exit only hit the Spanish midfielder once he digested the draw for the Champions' League group stage that his club had longed for, but will play no part in. Yet he believes the sense of injustice they will take to Fulham tomorrow, combined with the harsh lessons of Villarreal, will further inspire Everton to repeat last season's unexpected success both in the Premiership and the consolation of the Uefa Cup.

Arteta, who could be joined at Everton by the Roma defender Matteo Ferrari today, added: "We feel we should be in the group stages but we need to get over the fact that we are not very quickly and start again.

"The Uefa Cup will still be a great achievement for us if we can reach the group stage and do well, and while we know other teams have bought good players this summer and it will be very difficult to finish fourth again, we believe we can do it."