Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill relieved to avoid penalties in FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough

Martin O'Neill hails his side's tight win.
Martin O'Neill hails his side's tight win.

MARTIN O’Neill admits he was a relieved man after Sunderland avoided the “lottery” of a penalty shoot-out against their neighbours.

The Black Cats were just seven minutes away from spot-kicks at the Riverside last night before Stephane Sessegnon struck the winner in the dying embers of extra-time.

Middlesbrough didn’t make life easy for Sunderland by refusing to surrender in the fourth round replay despite Jack Colback handing the visitors a half-time lead with a scorching second goal for the Black Cats.

But Sunderland prevailed without the need for the Tees-Wear derby opponents to face the nerve-shredding tension of penalties, leaving Boro’s players crestfallen at the final whistle.

O’Neill said: “Penalty kicks were a concern because obviously that is a lottery.

“I thought it would go the distance because the two teams were tiring.

“But, from a selfish viewpoint, I’m pleased it didn’t go to penalties.

“I thought they played very well at our place. I know Tony (Mowbray, Boro boss) said he thought that was their best opportunity, but I never saw it like that.”

Read more of Martin O’Neill’s reaction, plus a full match report, in today’s Sportmail.