KEVIN Ball praised his players for their efforts against Liverpool in a game the Black Cats were always in, right up until the 89th minute when Luis Suarez plunged a dagger through their hearts to make it 3-1.
Up until then, Sunderland had competed well – undone by an unjust opening goal, falling further behind but then pulling a goal back in the second half to give themselves a sniff of a draw.
Ball, taking charge of his 11th Premier League – one short of Paolo Di Canio’s record – conjured another spirited performance from his players to add to the one they produced against Peterborough midweek.
But it was not enough and Ball knew that was likely to be the case given the pace and power of the Reds’ attack compared to that of the Posh.
“I always knew that we might be susceptible to Liverpool’s pace up front,” he said.
“But I was proud of the lads for the way that they took the game to Liverpool in the second half.
“I did say before the game that I wanted a performance from them – how important it was that they produced one and gave us something to build on – and I felt that I got it.
“The lads had a right go and I cannot ask more than that.
“I think you saw a real, hard-working, committed performance and there was a lot of good football in there from us too, which bodes well.”
Ball felt that overall it was a good game for the neutral as well as the fans, with Sunderland playing their part in keeping the result in the balance until the very end.
“There were parts of the game where we played very, very well but you’re never going to dominate from start to finish in the Premier League,” he noted.
“I think that the main thing is to make it count when you do have possession.
“And that’s one of the areas we can look at because when you don’t have the ball at this level you can be waiting a while to get it back.
“I’m pleased though that the players are showing endeavour and commitment.
“When you are 2-0 down, it’s a case of ‘what are you going to do now?’
“Are you just going to give it up and roll over or are you going to give it a go?
“And I’m glad to say that we at least gave it a go.”