Paolo Di Canio encouraged despite Sunderland’s Barclays Asia Cup defeat to Man City

HEARTENED: Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio

HEARTENED: Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio

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PAOLO DI CANIO is heartened by Sunderland’s stamina, despite the Black Cats losing in the final of the Barclays Asia Trophy, reports Chris Young in Hong Kong.

Sunderland succumbed 1-0 to Manchester City after Di Canio’s men were unable to find a way back into the game following Edin Dzeko’s ninth-minute opener.

At times, the encounter bordered on the farcical with the Hong Kong Stadium pitch in an atrocious condition after days of rain here in the Far East.

But despite the conditions and a draining training regime during Sunderland’s week-long stay in Hong Kong, Di Canio believes his players demonstrated that their fitness work is paying off.

Di Canio said today: “I’m very happy because of their general conditioning.

“Yesterday, we had a double training session and in the morning, we trained very hard.

“So I knew we couldn’t feel sharp.

“But the opponents are one of the best clubs in the world in terms of individuals, so I’m more than satisfied.

“There was a good spirit and attitude, especially in the first quarter of an hour. We had three or four potential chances.

“With the first chance for them, the goal came.

“I’m not happy, because you never are if you lose. But I’m happy with my players.”

Di Canio admits he actually expected the pitch to be worse, although City centre-half Matija Nastasic was a victim of the surface after he was stretchered off in the second half.

“It’s obvious that it was difficult in the conditions,” added Di Canio.

“But the team still gave me something.To be honest, thinking about it last night, I thought the pitch would be worse.

“Before us, there was another game and I know they put a lot of sand on the field.

“It was difficult for the players, but I think there was a good show from everybody.”