Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti said goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's challenge on Virgil van Dijk was mistimed rather than malicious and that reaction to the incident, which left the Dutchman facing a lengthy spell out, was over the top.
Premier League champions Liverpool confirmed Van Dijk will undergo surgery on damaged knee ligaments following a challenge by Pickford during Saturday's Merseyside derby, which finished in a 2-2 draw.
The England goalkeeper, however, escaped retrospective action over his challenge after the Football Association determined the incident was seen at the time by the match officials, including VAR.
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said the way Pickford went into the challenge was "completely stupid" and while the keeper had not set out deliberately to injure the centre back, he "didn't care about what happened after the tackle."
The Everton keeper has also faced a barrage of criticism from pundits as well as on social media, which Ancelotti said had gone too far.
"To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk," Ancelotti said ahead of Sunday's trip to Southampton.
"There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact. Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.
"And after that the reaction is too much. To say it was premeditated, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this. Jordan is really sad, really disappointed (about Van Dijk's injury). It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football, it can happen."
The Italian manager said that new signing James Rodriguez, who has scored three league goals so far, will miss the game against the Saints after the Colombian sustained an injury during a challenge from Van Dijk at Goodison Park.
Captain Seamus Coleman will be out for two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, while the Toffees, who are top of the Premier League with 13 points, will also miss forward Richarlison who will serve the first game of a three-match ban for his red card tackle on Thiago Alcantara last week