O’Neill rues Sunderland’s missed chances

UP FOR THE CUP ... Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill.
UP FOR THE CUP ... Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill.

MARTIN O’Neill felt Sunderland’s failure to take early chances proved to be their undoing with Liverpool eventually threatening to run rampant at Anfield last night.

The Black Cats were 2-0 down before the break, and although hopes were high in the Sunderland camp that they could stage a second-half come-back, they conceded a third soon after the resumption – and could easily have shipped more.

Raheem Sterling gave Liverpool the lead in the 19th minute, and James McClean missed a great chance to equalise before Luis Suarez grabbed the Reds’ second after 26 minutes.

Even after that, the Black cats continued to create openings, with Matt Kilgallon denied by Pepe Reina in one of the clearest.

“I think when we had a couple of chances in the first half we really had to take one those,” reflected O’Neill

“That would have given us a lift, given us a foothold in the game.

“But we gave away two very poor goals and in the end we were well beaten.

“Liverpool deserved to win.

“James had a great chance – it was one of those where you think we must score – but we didn’t take it, and on the night, we needed to do that.

“After Liverpool’s third goal, just after half-time, that put us really on the back foot and from then on in, Liverpool were comfortable after that.

“They looked very comfortable.”

Asked what the difference was between the performance which saw the Premier League champions beaten on Boxing Day and Sunderland’s lacklustre display last night, O’Neill said that was an easy question to answer.

“We had more energy against Man City because we were fresher,” he said.

“We had been buoyed by a great win at Southampton and with our home crowd behind us, offering us fantastic support, we showed great energy in that match against City and deserved to win.

“I felt we might have got something out of the Spurs game after that.

“But against Liverpool, with us being unable to shuffle our pack much, I felt the fourth game just got caught up with us.”