MARTIN O’Neill paid tribute to his side after yesterday’s win over the Premier League champions took Sunderland seven points clear of the relegation zone.
It was a victory as welcome as it was unexpected and the Black Cats’ boss hailed it as a real team effort while, at the same time, acknowledging that certain players deserved special mention.
He said: “A win over Man City at any time is a great one.
“They are a terrific side, a terrific team and they are capable of carving out so many chances.
“I believe this is the first time Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have started a game together and City haven’t won – so it was a great effort by us.
“We moved it well, caused them plenty of problems and then, after we had got the goal, Sessegnon had a great chance but pulled it wide of the post and you start to worry a little.
“With a chance like that gone, you’d think Man City would get straight back into it, but, thankfully, Simon Mignolet helped to drag us through.”
There was a makeshift element to Sunderland’s side at kick-off, just like there had been in last season’s game at the Stadium of Light when the Black Cats had registered a similarly surprising victory.
They were hit by the loss of stand-in skipper John O’Shea to illness before kick-off, which left the hosts with squad player Matt Kilgallon filling in a defence bolstered by a central midfielder and loanee in the full-back positions.
But they were able to somehow get Sunderland’s seventh clean sheet of the season on the back of some tremendous defending and spirited attacking.
O’Neill, who hopes O’Shea is fit enough to be involved in Saturday’s game against Spurs, explained: “We had to make a late change because John had been feeling ill for the last couple of days, so he missed the game.
“It meant Matt Kilgallon coming in, but he coped with it very well, as did the rest of the team.
“That was something which was picked up by City coach Brian Kidd, who was very complimentary, talking about being impressed by the way that our players threw their bodies on the line. It was nice of him to say that, because he didn’t have to.”
Sunderland might have been expected to defend resolutely, but it was perhaps a little surprising was how positive they were going forward
The manager reflected: “I thought both wingers were magnificent. James McClean was truly terrific, offensively and defensively, and he is getting back to being as dangerous as he was this time last year.
“He has had a pretty difficult time, with everyone talking about second season syndrome, but he’s working his way through that and full credit to him.
“As for Adam Johnson, he is starting to show some of the great form he is capable of.
“He looked stunned that he had scored and I have to admit I wasn’t sure myself until I heard the roar of the crowd – it just took a second before everyone realised it had gone in.
“But he fully deserved that.
“He was terrific.”