SUNDERLAND went into yesterday’s FA Cup sixth round draw having fully earned their place in the last eight, said Martin O’Neill.
The Black Cats’ boss was thrilled with the way his players squeezed the life out of an unconvincing Arsenal side and no-one, apart from maybe visiting manager Arsene Wenger, was suggesting Sunderland did not deserve their victory.
“I’m really, really pleased to be in the last eight of the FA Cup,” said O’Neill with conviction.
“I’m delighted for everyone at the football club, the players particularly.
“I thought they were excellent – not just in working hard, but, when they had the ball, they tried to use it.
“They have a confidence and self-belief about them and that is getting stronger – they are starting to believe they can win matches.
“They had trained well and I felt that they were ready.
“You never know in football – sometimes you can get that feeling they are ready on a Friday and that feeling has evaporated by Saturday.
“But that wasn’t the case this week.
“I felt it during the week, that they wanted this game.”
Of the game itself, O’Neill felt that Kieran Richardson’s goal, scored just before the break, could hardly have been better timed.
“It was very important because you felt the first goal in that game was going to be significant,” he argued.
“Simon Mignolet made a good save with the one he tipped over the bar and then we get the goal – big moments.
“We got extra belief from the goal and we took that into the second half and looked full of confidence.
“They had the chance that Mignolet saved, but we seemed to limit them once we grew into the game.
“We looked as though we were dangerous and we got numbers forward on the counter-attack.
“It was a really good performance.”