OUR powers of resolve were once again required when for the sixth match on the spin we took something from a game we trailed in – a Premier League record. It was the substitutions of Mirallas and later Neville that were pivotal.
Mirallas again was on fire, cutting in, committing players and being a constant menace with the Belgian taking on his man seven times in the opening 30 minutes.
Teams are fearful of his pace and will stand off him which enables us to get further up the pitch.
Naismith is no like for like replacement; the Scot has his qualities but doesn’t have the pace or trickery to take defenders out of the game; after coming on for the Belgian he made no dribbles and we lost momentum.
O’Neill’s side unsurprisingly sat deep and looked to counter attack, enabling us to dominate possession with 60% of the ball including 74% of final third possession.
With a slender lead, Sunderland were defending rigidly and proving difficult to break down. Moyes’ second change was to prove crucial; he brought on Vellios for Neville and withdrew Fellaini into a deeper role.
Jelavic and Vellios played as wide forwards to stretch O’Shea and Cueller and – now free from his man-marker – the Belgian was able to come from deep and exploit the space between the duo which he did to devastating effect.