Sunderland’s Larsson is sure fitness work will pay off

WORKING HARD ... Sunderland's Seb Larsson, right.

WORKING HARD ... Sunderland's Seb Larsson, right.

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SEB LARSSON says Sunderland will reap the rewards from the Barclays Asia Trophy final, despite the Hong Kong Stadium mud-bath.

Sunderland were unable to conclude their pre-season stay in Hong Kong with some silverware on Saturday after Edin Dzeko’s ninth minute goal proved sufficient for Manchester City to lift the Asia Trophy.

But arguably more importantly, Sunderland’s players came through the game unscathed on a boggy, sand-covered pitch, which saw Manchester City centre-half Matija Nastasic stretchered off.

Midfielder Larsson says playing on such a surface in soaring humidity will continue to help Sunderland’s fitness though after a week-long stint of double training sessions.

Larsson told the Echo: “I don’t even know if I’ve ever played on a pitch like that, even as a kid.

“Everyone could see the conditions weren’t great, but they were the same for both teams.

“Apart from making it difficult to play football, it obviously took a lot out of you as well.

“We’ve trained quite hard last week and then to go out and play on a pitch like that was tough.

“But it’s all in the bank and it’s all going to help us for the start of the season.

“Without a doubt, every minute will have done us good.”

Larsson admits he was disappointed that Sunderland couldn’t push City harder, with the Swedish international’s late free-kick drawing the only meaningful save from keeper Costel Pantilimon.

But the 27-year-old believes fatigue was possibly behind that, with Sunderland not able to produce the same attacking potency they showed in their semi-final victory over Tottenham.

“I’m not going to lie, we all really wanted to win the game,” added Larsson.

“We know Man City are a great team, but we tried our best.

“We have been working hard in pre-season and it’s only going to help us even more.

“I think we looked a bit more fatigued than we did against Spurs and obviously the pitch didn’t help.”