Jesus Perez defended Saints’ team selection and performance as they were knocked out of the FA Cup at Sunderland.

Mauricio Pochettino made six changes to the side that defeated in Hull in midweek.

Sunderland made nine changes in a game Gus Poyet had admitted he would rather lose than draw, but the Black Cats still proved too strong for a lacklustre Saints.

There has already been inevitable criticism of Pochettino’s tactics with his team stuck in upper midtable in the league and missing out on the chance to win through to the FA Cup quarter-finals in a draw that appeared to be opening up.

Assistant manager Perez defended not only the team selection but also the performance, saying he was not disappointed, just “a little sad” about the 1-0 defeat courtesy of Craig Garnder’s second half strike.

He said: “We played the best team we decide to play.

“We assess our players, we know how they are, we know which problems each other got from the last game and we decide the best team to play.

“I repeat again we trust every single player we have in our squad.

“Our squad is not depth in this moment so we have a lot of young people from the under-21s so we are not disappointed, just a little sad to be out of the FA Cup because we tried to move forward.

“It wasn’t possible to stay in the next round but we protect and we support all our squad.”

He added: “We are not disappointed for nothing as a team, as players.

“They tried to do the best and we couldn’t especially first half because Sunderland played with energy and a little bit different if we review the last game we played here in the Premier League.

“They stopped us better and I think in the second half we conceded a simple goal.

“In the last 15-20 minutes we had chances enough to equalise the game.”