GUS Poyet hailed penalty shout-out king Vito Mannone as Sunderland’s hero in the wake of the Black Cats reaching the Capital One Cup final last night.
The Italian stopper’s performance in both legs of the semi-final was outstanding and, at the death at Old Trafford last night, he held his nerve to make two penalty saves as Sunderland reached a Wembley cup final for the first time since 1992.
Afterwards, the Black Cats’ boss admitted he could hardly believe the beleagured club he had inherited three months ago was now heading to a cup final.
But he was pretty clear on who the hero of the hour was. “How have we done it?” he smiled. “How have we got there?
“I don’t know, but I think you have to ask Vito Mannone – I think he is the only one that can answer that. He has been getting better and better and, on this day, he was the difference between the two teams.”
It was no surprise that the Italian was selected for the random drugs test at the end of the match – his form over the two legs has been something to witness.
And it was appreciated by everyone of his team-mates who raced towards him at the final whistle to celebrate.
“I will let you into a little secret,” said Poyet. “When Vito went into the dressing room afterwards, the whole team started to sing his name and there’s no better feeling for a player than that.”
That spontaneous moment put the seal on an incredibly dramatic cup victory, the like of which Poyet struggled to recall.
“It’s very difficult to explain,” he said. “I don’t remember a game like this one.
“Firstly, you don’t expect to score a goal in the last minute to get through, only then to concede in the last 60 seconds.
“And then, when you go into a penalty shoot-out and miss your first two penalties, you don’t expect to end that penalty shoot-out going through.
“We’re through though and that’s incredible. There’s no better feeling than to be a winner and the players in our dressing room afterwards, let me tell you, they were winners.”
Keeper Mannone was almost left speechless, and he said: “Unbelievable, just unbelievable. We deserved to get to the final.”