Black Cats manager singles out skipper Lee Cattermole for praise following dramatic victory secured by Ji Dong-won's stoppage-time strike at the Stadium of LightSunderland manager Martin O'Neill saluted his players for “defending for their lives” to earn what he hailed as an “extraordinary” victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City.
O’Neill sang his players’ praises after his injury-hit side, who are hovering just above the relegation zone, upset the odds to beat high-flying City thanks to a 93rd minute goal from South Korea international Ji Dong-won.
“It was just a remarkable performance by the team and for us to win the game was extraordinary,” O’Neill told reporters at his post-match press conference.
“I accept that Man City were camped outside our penalty area for the last 20 minutes but for us to get players up in support when their move broke down in the 93rd minute was fantastic.
“We had a great chance early on in the match but we didn’t take it when Nicklas Bendtner probably took a stride too far and the ball bobbled and if we’d scored then it might have settled us down and given us something to go with.
“But as the game wore on you knew what pattern it would take and that we would have to defend for our lives, just throwing bodies in front of the ball and blocking whatever we could.”
Sunderland seemed to be happy to hang on for a draw when Ji finished off an incisive counter-attack that gathered momentum thanks to O’Neill.
“I was asked whether I was ushering them into the corner before the goal and remarkably I wasn’t,” O’Neill said.
“Had we been dispossessed on the edge of their penalty box I didn’t think there would be enough time for Manchester City to get back up to the other end so I thought let’s go and attack them.
“They tell me it was marginally offside but we end up winning the game. The roar for the goal was deafening and I was delighted to hear the roar for the final whistle as well. It was a really fantastic effort.”
O’Neill reserved special praise for skipper Lee Cattermole, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who played with a protective mask, and illness-hit Sebastian Larsson.
“The whole performance was probably epitomised by the captain who was really fantastic and at the end I told him that I thought his performance was absolutely terrific,” the former Aston Villa boss said.
“I was asked a question about his discipline and if he was now a more disciplined player but it is far too early to call that one. It would be remarkable to curb that in a couple of games. Anyway, I was delighted with him. He was brilliant.
“Simon had a mask attached a few days ago and has been training with it for a couple of days. I wasn’t expecting him to be around for a couple of weeks but then when Westwood called in ill he said he would play and I told him ‘don’t attach any blame to yourself if things go badly. He took a bit of confidence from that and was terrific.
“Seb Larsson was in bed all day yesterday and I didn’t think for one minute that he would play and when he said he would try I thought he might last half-an-hour maximum, and there he was at the end still going.”
O’Neill has now seen his side earn 10 points in five games since he succeeded Steve Bruce and his team will head to Wigan Athletic on Tuesday desperate for points to ease the club away from the drop zone.
“It has been an incredible weekend and we are delighted with the three points,” he continued.
“Naturally, I wasn’t too pleased with the results yesterday with Blackburn winning at Manchester United because we are still fighting for our lives here and needing the points. I watched Wigan against Stoke and they showed remarkable spirit and we will have our work cut out on Tuesday.”
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