O'Neill hails opening-day effort

by Stuart Vose

Boss lauds Emirates display.

Martin O'Neill hailed his Sunderland side after they held off Arsenal to claim a useful point at the Emirates Stadium.

The Black Cats opened the new campaign on a positive note with a bullish performance in North London.

Defensive grit was present in abundance as Sunderland soaked up second-half pressure to frustrate Arsene Wenger's big spenders.

“It was a terrific performance by the team, considering that after about 60-odd minutes we were out on our feet,” O'Neill said.

“It was a very warm day, we were away from home and we had to soak up pressure. I thought we were really excellent; it was a brilliant effort.

“We’ve got a point, we’re off the mark and we’ve got a home game to look forward to.”

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud had the best chance of the match just five minutes from time when he burst beyond Kieran Richardson to fire wide with only Simon Mignolet to beat.

Meanwhile, Sunderland's best opportunities came early in the contest and O'Neill felt his side started brightly before coming under increasing pressure in the 30-degree heat.

“In the first half when we broke we broke with some promise and had chances,” he said.

“James McClean hit one at the goalkeeper and maybe Jack Colback might have been a bit more forceful with his shot. We did create.

“Obviously as you’re under pressure you get tired and things are going to open up for the opposition.”

O'Neill added: “I thought Craig Gardner was outstanding as was Kieran Richardson and the two central defenders.

“Simon Mignolet made a fantastic save early on from Santi Cazorlo, but all the team were fantastic today. It was a great effort.”