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Match analysis: Sunderland earn first point of the season
Southampton 1 Sunderland 1
PAOLO DI CANIO feels Sunderland will not be fairly judged while he is manager, suggesting that pundits' personal opinions of him will cloud their judgement of his side.
Di Canio's Sunderland earned their first point of the season against Southampton on Saturday in an impressive defensive display, after his side had lost their opening fixture at home to Fulham a week ago.
Many pundits and commentators have tipped Sunderland for the drop this season, and while Di Canio was not particularly irked by this, he expected such treatment from an English media that still pigeon-holes the Black Cats manager as a controversial figure, with reference to his Roman salute made while at Lazio in 2005, and his firebrand reputation as a player with Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham United.
“I'm happy to read this because as you know we are going to finish in a position where everybody will disappear and never say sorry because they were wrong,” said Di Canio, after seeing Emanuele Giaccherini's first goal in English football on three minutes cancelled out by Jose Fonte's 88th minute equaliser. “It's opinion. I have to respect a comment. The people, at the end, can say 'we were right, we know football, we can read it in a perfect way', or they can say they know nothing about football.
“I heard it many times already even after last week where we dominated. The ironic thing is that the same people said after the Fulham game, even after the team the next day lost by a bigger distance, I don't want to say who, but they could have been ten-nil down after ten minutes and they praised their performance.
“So either there is someone against us, I don't know why, or there is some confusion.”
Di Canio, who took Swindon Town from League Two into League One, added: “After two years what do I have to do? I have to prove to myself every day that I'm a good manager? For me, it's not yesterday or three days ago, it will be the same in three years' time when I have a good result with this club.
“It'll come out again with this story about the Roman salute, stupid things which have nothing to do with my profession or the person I am. I know how it works in the media, in the news.
“I belong to the group of people where it is difficult to cancel the opinion of me because of something I did in the past, and now I have the mark. In two years' time it'll be the same. It was enough in Swindon.
“Here, we save the club in two months, with one striker, save this club. The first game was a good performance. I can imagine if we lose again it'll be 'he's finished, Di Canio is a disaster, they're already down.'
“I'm not worried, I am strong. I know it'll be difficult to cancel this opinion on me. I accept it. I am sure we are going to have a good season. If we do, they'll say nothing but probably come back one day to attack me, or Sunderland.”
While it was billed as a duel of two attack-minded footballing sides, it was two set-pieces that decided an entertaining encounter at St Mary's.
Seb Larsson's free-kick from the left forced Sunderland's first corner of the afternoon, from which they scored when the Swede swung in a perfect centre for Giaccherini, who had wriggled clear of his marker, took a step backwards and stooped to nod into the corner past Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
Three minutes later, Southampton, contesting their first home game of the season, thought they had drawn level when Jay Rodriguez fired past Keiren Westwood, but it was chalked off for offside.
Westwood had to be at his best on 18 minutes when he went full-stretch to tip Rickie Lambert's header around the post from James Ward-Prowse's cross.
Saints were able to leave £15million striker Dani Osvaldo, signed from Roma during last week, on the bench, but the forward, who played under Saints manager Manuel Pochettino at Espanyol, came on at the interval, as did Sunderland striker Ji Dong Won, replacing the disappointing Stephane Sessegnon.
Southampton turned the screw, and Lambert almost got the equaliser from distance but for another fine save by Westwood, who tipped his 20-yard shot away to safety.
Osvaldo received a yellow card for a late challenge on Modibo Diakite, and should have been dismissed moments from the end when he tackled Ondrej Celustka unfairly. However, referee Lee Mason did not dismiss him, and the new boy won a free-kick after a sloppy challenge from John O'Shea.
Ward-Prowse, who had caused problems all afternoon with his distribution, whipped in a perfect ball for Fonte to flick past Westwood and take a share of the spoils.
Di Canio was impressed by Sunderland's ability to deal with pressure, explaining that Cabral, who made a decent debut against Fulham last week, had been dropped to accommodate Craig Gardner, who the Black Cats manager felt was more of a physical presence in the centre of the park to cope with Southampton's attacking players.
Di Canio added: “For me it was better to have Seb Larsson and Craig in the middle, try to press, work so hard, otherwise we'd have had problems. They caused problems for us anyway because they keep the ball very well.
“I didn't enjoy the way we pressed individually because it needs to happen as a team. They had too much time on the ball, time and space to play forward, play on the good foot.
“Away from home, it's still a process where we're improving as a team. It will take time.”
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