GUS Poyet was as proud of his Sunderland players performance against Liverpool as he had been disappointed with their display at Norwich City four days previously.
The end result was the same – another away defeat – but the mood in the dressing room could not have been more different.
At Carrow Road, there had been strife and dissension, but at Anfield last night there was satisfaction at a collective team effort which came so close to yielding an away point against a team who are now genuine contenders to win the Premier League this season.
Liverpoool, playing their first home game in a month and coming into it on the back of six victories, were confronted by a Sunderland team who had five at the back but still played with two strikers up front.
“We did something nobody expected,” said Poyet. “And we asked questions of Liverpool by making it tough for them.
“I think the game was set up for a big party – maybe four or five goals for Liverpool – and everybody celebrating after the first half-hour.
“But then they tried and tried and couldn’t get the goal and they needed to do something special to get through us.
“They managed that eventually, because they are Liverpool and Steven Gerrard is special, but they did not get away from us, even after scoring a second goal.”
Poyet believed his side might have done better on the night.
“The one thing that we didn’t do so well against Liverpool was to find space and pass the ball as well as we can,” added the Uruguayan.
“We only really did that once Ki and Adam Johnson came on.
“But we showed, when they were on the pitch in the last half-an-hour, that we were able to give even a side as good as Liverpool a problem.
“So I have a strange feeling after this game.
“It’s a strange feeling because I hate to lose and we have lost.
“But I’m also happy that we made it difficult for Liverpool, played very well and played well enough to get something out of it right at the end.
“Overall, I would call it an unexpected performance by Sunderland – an unexpectedly good one.”