MARTIN O’NEILL is determined to learn lessons from Sunderland’s stuttering display at the Etihad ahead of the derby game at the Stadium of Light in 13 days time.
The Black Cats’ boss was quick to praise Manchester City for playing like Premier League champions on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory over the Black Cats on Saturday.
But he felt his own team did not do themselves justice.
And his gut instinct was that whatever confidence his players possessed going into the game, it drained away too quickly on the day.
“We were well-beaten by a superior team and I have very little complaint about that,” he said.
“My complaint is about us – when we had possession we gave it away too easily.
“We could have been punished more before the break for that. but. having got to half-time with just one goal in it, we were hopeful for the second half.
“They were better than us. though.
“When they got their second goal. they were able to show all their abilities and and the final scoreline could have been worse.”
O’Neill will ponder how improvements can be made over the next couple of weeks.
But his initial view was that Sunderland did not help themselves by the way the responded after going behind just five minutes into the game.
“We were disappointed in the dressing room afterwards by how we reacted after that first goal,” he said.
“It’s a setback conceding so early, but it shouldn’t be fatal – the game hadn’t taken any real pattern at that stage.
“It was just my feeling that maybe we didn’t have the total self-belief you need coming to places like this.
“We were second best all afternoon and we should have done better.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t hold on to the ball well enough and we didn’t pass it well enough.”
He was asked if banned midfielder Lee Cattermole was a miss and conceded that the captain – who serves the last game of his three-match suspension against Newcastle – might well have been.
But he added: “Lee was missing through his own fault, so, at the end of the day, we have to deal with the players we have available.”