Sunderland manager David Moyes commended his players for “sticking at the job”, despite a narrow opening-day defeat away to title-chasing Manchester City.
The Black Cats went behind to a fourth-minute Sergio Aguero penalty, dispatched after Raheem Sterling had been brought down by Patrick van Aanholt, but were level courtesy of Jermain Defoe’s 71st minute strike.
Moyes’ men appeared on course to secure at least a point, but City took the spoils after debutant Paddy McNair was unable to prevent Vito Mannone’s save from ricocheting off his head and into the net.
Despite the defeat, and the agonising nature of the hosts’ winner, there was plenty to take from the performance.
“It was gut-wrenching. We did a great job in containing them as best we could. We had a game plan, we knew we weren’t going to have an awful lot of the ball, and we had just about done the job – but just about is not enough,” said Sunderland boss Moyes.
“I’m disappointed with the way we defended the second goal. I think we backed off too much and allowed the ball to be played across the six-yard box, which made it really difficult whether it be a defender or a striker with a great chance of scoring.
“But overall I thought the players did really well. I don’t want to pat them on the back for losing, but a pat on the back would come from the way they stuck at their job, kept going and coming very close to getting a result.”