VITO MANNONE says central defensive pair Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite have to take a large chunk of credit for Sunderland’s first away win of the season.
Summer signings Roberge and Diakite came in from the cold to play together for only the second time at Everton yesterday after Wes Brown and John O’Shea were ruled out through suspension and injury respectively.
Roberge had not started for Sunderland since Gus Poyet’s first game in charge at Swansea, while it was Diakite’s maiden appearance under the Uruguayan.
And while goalkeeper Mannone rightfully took the plaudits for a series of stunning second-half saves at Goodison Park, the former Arsenal man was quick to praise the contributions of his central defenders.
“I think my defence was brilliant,” said Mannone.
“We had two new guys in who hadn’t played for three months.
“Believe me, I’ve been in a situation worse than them, and you need to really fight against the negative side of your mind because it drags you down and down.
“You’re just thinking ‘I want to leave’ because you’re not playing.
“We spoke a lot this week and I think Roberge and Diakite deserve a big prize from everybody.
“It’s never easy when you’re not playing and they did magnificent against top players like (Ross) Barkley and (Romelu) Lukaku.”
Mannone’s contribution helped Sunderland to a third successive Premier League clean sheet, but on the one occasion the £2million summer capture was beaten, he was helped out by fellow Italian Fabio Borini.
The on-loan Liverpool striker produced a stunning goal-line clearance to deny Everton substitute Nikica Jelavic a late equaliser.
Mannone added: “It’s always like that (being busy) against one of the big clubs who are doing really, really well.
“Sometimes I can’t do things on my own and I need the help of a team-mate.
“You want a clean sheet and I knew from the first moment that ball was going for my top corner. Fabio did marvellous to get it out.
“That’s when you can see you’re fighting for points.”