KI SUNG-YEUNG today branded his dramatic first goal in English football as a “once in a lifetime experience”
The on-loan Swansea midfielder sent Sunderland through to their first League Cup semi-final since 1999 last night after grabbing a last-gasp extra-time winner against Chelsea.
Substitute Ki, who had almost netted moments earlier with a header, has been pushed into a more advanced role over the last two games to accommodate the return of Lee Cattermole into the starting XI.
And the South Korean responded with his first domestic goal since netting for Celtic in February 2012, to cap a stunning comeback from the Premier League’s basement boys.
Ki told SportMail: “I can’t express the feeling. It’s my first goal in England, a quarter final against Chelsea and scoring in the last minute. That’s maybe a once in a lifetime experience.
“It was great to celebrate and to get through to the semi-final.
“I had a chance a few minutes before with the header, but I thought I would get another chance.
“I was pushed forward. In the last game at West Ham, I had a lot of chances, but couldn’t score, so I was desperate to get one.
“I think we should score more goals from midfield.
“We can’t always rely on strikers. If I’m pushed forward, I’ll hopefully get a lot more chances.
“That was my second game, so I’m expecting to score more.”
Chelsea looked to be coasting to victory before substitute Fabio Borini equalised with two minutes of normal time remaining.
That goal rejuvenated Gus Poyet’s side, who were in the ascendancy throughout extra-time before grabbing the winner with just 90 seconds remaining.
And Ki believes Sunderland, who will discover their semi-final opponents tonight, can take the confidence from a morale-boosting victory into their fight to remain in the Premier League.
The 24-year-old said: “I think the boys were desperate to win. They had a lot of energy and we were fitter than Chelsea. We controlled the game in extra time.
“Chelsea are one of the best teams in England. Even though this is the League Cup, we don’t care, because we’ll get a lot of confidence from that.
“I think definitely it can help our league form. The atmosphere is buzzing among the boys and we all believe.
“If we can beat Chelsea, we can beat other teams.
“But we have to get our focus back for Saturday.”
Despite playing 30 minutes of extra-time, Ki believes the boost stemming from victory can help Sunderland overcome fatigue against the Canaries.
“If we had lost in extra-time, we would be disappointed because we’d done well in the game,” he added.
“But now you don’t feel it as much physically. I don’t think we will be mentally or physically tired.”
There was no doubt Chelsea had been the better side with the better chances in the first 45 minutes but Sunderland had peformed well.
But all their hard work though was overturned within seconds of the restart when Chelsea scored from the kick-off.
No-one tracked Cesar Azpilcueta’s run down the right from Andre Schurrle’s pass and Frank Lampard and Cattermole bundled the ball over the line.
Vito Mannone scooped the ball back into play – a move which merited the first use of Hawkeye at the stadium – but it was obvious to those watching that the ball was clearly over the line.
It could have got worse a minute later when a Sammy Eto’o snapshot from just outside Sunderland’s 18-yard-box was just inches wide of Mannone’s left-hand post.
Sunderland left it late to level. Very late.
Cattermole deserves great credit. He drove a ball straight up to the pitch to Emanuele Giaccherini who advanced to the 18-yard box and passed forward to Jozy Altidore on the left.
The American was bundled off the ball as he tried to find the target but the ball ran free to Borini on the right of goal and he drove home a low shot from the narrowest possible angle through David Luiz’s legs on the line.
It was a wonderfully nicked goal but the Italian could have doubled his hero status in timed added on from another breakaway, only to delay his shot, which allowed Gary Cahill to make the bravest of last-ditch blocks.
Both teams had opportunities in extra-time but then came one last deep cross into the away box from the right, Borini in the centre got the ball out to Ki on the left and the Korean stepped inside two challenges and drove a low right-foot shot just inside Mark Schwarzer’s left-hand post to send the Stadium of Light into ecstasy.
Sunderland had deserved their progress.
They had faced down a superior side over almost 120 minutes of testing football, never losing their nerve or their belief and the win was a triumph for the collective determination Gus Poyet is trying to ingrain in his players; that desire to go on against the odds and as long as it takes.
It is what Sunderland needed to succeed in last night’s cup tie and it is what they will need if they are to pull off the improbable task of staying up this season.