GUS POYET hailed Sunderland’s Premier League match winners as a late flurry of goals saw off Championship opposition to book his side a Capital One Cup third-round tie at home to Stoke City.
Jordi Gomez, Adam Johnson and Connor Wickham all scored in the final 13 minutes as the Black Cats claimed a 3-0 win over Birmingham City that had looked in doubt for the majority of a surprisingly lacklustre tie.
Poyet remains determined to add at least two more players before the transfer window closes on Monday evening, and while he refused to address recruitment matters directly last night, he left his post-match press conference promising “a surprise”.
He has been strongly linked with Argentinian Ricky Alvarez in the Italian press, and is understood to be pushing for a season-long loan that would potentially see the Inter Milan player complete an €11m permanent move to Sunderland next summer.
Regardless of what happens in the next four days though, the Uruguayan is happy with the depth of talent at his disposal, with two of last night’s match winners not having started in the weekend game with Manchester United.
“In the last 20 minutes, I thought our Premier League class told and we had some match-winners who could settle the game,” said Poyet.
“In the end, we had better players and were maybe better physically. Our understanding ultimately made the difference. That’s football, and because we scored, Birmingham had to chase the game and that opened things up perfectly for us.
“It was a strange game. It was a poor first half technically again and that is a bit of a worry, we couldn’t pass the ball. But somehow we got to half-time 0-0 and then the second half was different.
“The same group of players found something at half-time that made them play much better. They were caring more about the ball, and we were growing and growing into the game. The first goal was the key to changing the game completely.”
That first goal saw Gomez open his Black Cats account with a fierce low drive that whistled into the bottom corner of the net.
Johnson and Wickham then followed up with two goals in the space of a minute, adding some somewhat undeserved gloss to a performance that had struggled to get out of first gear for the majority of the evening.
“I wanted us to manage the game better in the first half because we gave a couple of chances to Birmingham and if we had conceded, the game would have been totally different,” said Poyet.
“It’s not going to be perfect every time, but the good thing is that we scored and, after that, it was probably the best we have played all season. They couldn’t get the ball off us, we created chances and scored two more goals.
“It was the total opposite to where you can play a fantastic game but concede in the last few minutes and leave looking miserable. We played rubbish for 45 minutes, but finished the game on a high. We will try to take that feeling into Saturday.”
Poyet made six changes from the side that drew with Manchester United on Sunday, but was always confident his new-look line-up would be capable of seeing off a Birmingham side managed by former Sunderland and Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark.
“If we lost this game I am sure people would have killed me because we made six changes,” he said. “But all the players I brought in are Premier League players. They have been with us for a while and are going to be very important for us.
“It wasn’t easy to pick the team today because I wanted a strong team, but at the same time we need to be very careful about training and then travelling again on Friday. It is incredible that we have to play so many games in such a short period of time, and then we have two weeks off.”