STEPHANE Sessegnon today played down the impact of his scoring streak despite a fourth goal in eight games, ensuring Sunderland prevailed in the Tees-Wear derby.
Sessegnon’s 113th minute strike settled an epic battle at the Riverside last night after Middlesbrough fought back from Jack Colback’s opener to send the FA Cup fourth round replay into extra-time.
The ever-present Benin international has been by far Sunderland’s greatest attacking threat this season and his seventh of the campaign took him to the top of the Black Cats’ scoring list.
Sessegnon insists victories rather than goals remain his priority, although the 27-year-old admits he is revelling in the licence handed to him as Sunderland’s most creative outlet.
He told the Echo: “The most important thing is the team wins.
“If the team keeps winning and I can play a part in that victory with goals, then it’s obviously pleasing.
“It’s enjoyable playing in this team at the moment because I’ve been given the opportunity to play a role where I can link the play and be heavily involved.
“It’s a team with a lot of spirit to win as well and doesn’t think about losing at all.
“Scoring goals has never been my priority.
“But if I can keep contributing with them then that’s great.”
The 2-1 victory on Teesside ensured Sunderland progressed to the fifth round of the competition for the first time since 2004, with Arsenal the visitors to the Stadium of Light on Saturday week.
But the concern for manager Martin O’Neill is the cost of a third successive victory, with Sunderland short on recovery time before facing the Gunners in the Premier League this weekend.
“We’ve got a couple of days to recuperate, but it’s going to be difficult because most of the team have played the last two games,” admitted Sessegnon. “But the manager has the option to introduce fresh players.
“And when the team has a lot of desire to keep winning and we’re playing well, then you don’t feel tired so much. We need to rest before Saturday though because we know we’ll face a tough game against Arsenal.”
The former Paris St Germain man added: “It was a difficult match last night with lots of tackles and lots of opportunities in front of goal.
“But it was important to win and advance into the next round of the cup. It didn’t matter how we got there, we needed to seal qualification.
“We’ve got Arsenal on Saturday and it’s important to keep progressing in the Premier League as well as the cup. We know it will be difficult because of the quality of the team we are facing.
“But there’s a lot of positivity around the team at the moment and we’re looking forward to every game with the chance to prove ourselves.
Read Chris Young’s full match report, plus more reaction to Sunderland’s FA Cup win, in today’s Echo.