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.

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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.