CARLOS CUELLAR has urged Sunderland supporters to look at the performances rather than the statistics after the Black Cats' losing run continued despite a promising display at Goodison Park.
Two Everton goals in three minutes cancelled out Adam Johnson's first-half opener on Merseyside, extending Sunderland's winless run at Everton to a 13th season.
But Cuellar, although disappointed by the defeat, felt there was much to celebrate after a rejuvenated Sunderland created plenty of chances and looked comfortable before Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic turned the game on its head in the second half.
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"I think the team and the players are still positive," said the Spanish centre-half. "We can go forward and get better as we're playing good football.
"I know the statistics. We've been unlucky in some games, we lose points in the last minutes.
"But the statistics don't always show the truth of how the team are playing. They're just numbers. We're going to get better and we're going to break that statistic.
"People are going to be disappointed by this defeat, and people are going to think we will struggle this season, but inside the dressing room we're confident.
"We were very unlucky not to pick up a point or three against one of the tough teams. Everton have done so well this season.
"We're focused on winning. We deserved to win today. You watch the performance and you think, we've lost so we were disappointing, that's not the case. Inside we know we deserved more."
Preparations for the Black Cats' next game, at Fulham, will be halted by the brief break for international friendlies this week, but Cuellar feels that once everyone is back at the Academy of Light, the hard work will continue - and that it will bring its rewards at Craven Cottage.
"We keep training hard, we keep trying to play that style of football," Cuellar said.
"We were fine in the first half, we played well, we created chances, and we deserved to score a few more goals.
"Once one win comes, more will follow. The confidence is high, we believe in the team, we believe in each other, we know how good we can be.
"Sometimes you can play well and get nothing, and sometimes you don't deserve a result yet you get one. We have to keep going that way, because the performance was one of the best so far this season.
"We've gained a lot of confidence from playing like that and creating a lot of chances. We never lost confidence.
"We attacked well in the first half, had two one-on-ones, controlled the ball well, but in the second half they came into it. We expected that, they're playing at home, we had to defend more, try to keep a clean sheet, but they were pushing forward and we went on to lose."
Sunderland recorded five shots on target, with four of them coming in the first half, while the back four largely nullified Everton's threat up until their quickfire goals.
Cuellar added: "We've seen this before, the statistics and bad luck is there but we are playing well. We're disappointed because we lost the opportunity to pick up a win against one of the best teams this year. Let's see what happens in the next game."