VITO MANNONE admits Sunderland have squandered an opportunity to start their campaign in style.
But last year’s Player of the Season is quick to stress that Sunderland should not be spending the international break beating themselves up, with the Italian convinced that the club are heading in the right direction.
Sunderland suffered their first defeat of the season at Loftus Road on Saturday after newly-promoted QPR, who had come away empty-handed from their first two games, secured a 1-0 win over Gus Poyet’s side.
Victory in West London would have taken Sunderland’s points tally to five points from their first three games and handed the Black Cats that much-coveted first league victory of the campaign.
But, while Mannone was left ruing the loss against Harry Redknapp’s men, the keeper believes there are clear signs of progress from Sunderland’s new-look side, particularly if further additions are made before tonight’s 11pm transfer deadline.
Mannone said: “It’s definitely a missed opportunity.
“You need to get those three points and, at the end of the day, we didn’t.
“We controlled the game, but there’s so many excuses and we lost the three points. That’s it.
“Somehow, we need to find a way to win these difficult, scrappy games.
“We don’t have to be too upset, but, at the same time, we have to learn from it and be ready for the next few tough places.
“We are moving in the right direction. If you look at the game, we were set up well.
“Hopefully we will have a few new faces in before the window shuts and then we can regroup before the next game.
“We have to keep our heads high because we can improve and play better.”
Sunderland had been in the ascendancy for the opening 25 minutes, with both Patrick van Aanholt and Steven Fletcher going close.
But Sunderland’s failure to see the game through to half-time – after a sustained spell of pressure from QPR – was the root of their downfall, with Charlie Austin netting the only goal of the encounter in first-half injury time.
Mannone added: “We are a bit frustrated because we controlled the game and I thought, for most spells, we were the better team.
“They were more direct, although the crowd helped them after they got behind them when they hit the crosssbar.
“We wanted to go in at half-time and, with 30 seconds to go, we conceded a goal from the corner.
“We will learn. I don’t think we played bad, but we need to learn to use more of the spaces they gave us and try not to concede from set pieces.
“I think it will come in time.
“It’s been a good lesson, but we still have time to improve in the games.
“Obviously, we don’t want to give points away at any time and we wanted to come away from QPR with something.
“But, as the manager said, it’s a big lesson for the next time we go to a place like that.”