CRAIG GARDNER has labelled Simon Mignolet as the “best keeper” in the Premier League despite the stopper’s horrifying blunder against West Brom.
Mignolet has arguably been Sunderland’s top performer this season, but the Belgian’s dreadful clanger proved pivotal on Saturday after gifting Shane Long a goal to double West Brom’s advantage on the stroke of half-time.
It was a tough afternoon for the 24-year-old after he was beaten four times by the Baggies, as Sunderland slipped to a third successive Stadium of Light defeat.
But midfielder Gardner is confident Mignolet will bounce back from his most notable error in his two-and-a-half years with the Black Cats.
Gardner said: “Simon will probably never do that again and I think he’s the best keeper in the league at the minute.
“He’s been top-class day in, day out in training – his attitude and the saves he makes are unbelievable.
“Look at all the saves he’s made this season. He doesn’t need me or the manager to stand here and say he’s brilliant.
“He’s the best keeper in the league, honestly. This won’t faze him. He’ll be back in the next game.”
Mignolet’s error left Sunderland facing an uphill battle against the high-flying Baggies, but the Black Cats never surrendered their hopes of getting something from the game.
First-half sub Gardner’s free-kick and Stephane Sessegnon’s second goal in as many games twice got Sunderland back into contention, only for West Brom to restore their two-goal advantage through Romelu Lukaku’s debatable penalty and Marc-Antoine Fortune’s last-gasp strike on the break.
“The gaffer told us at half-time that we were still in it and not to give up, not that we ever give up anyway,” added Gardner on the club’s website.
“We got one back but then the penalty came.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty, but that’s not for me to say.
“Then we got other one back and we had to go for it – you may as well lose 5-2 than 3-2.
“We went for it and they caught us on the break.”