Sam Allardyce won't blame Vito Mannone for Bournemouth goal, and explains Steve Harper decision

Vito Mannone has received Sam Allardyce's full backing, despite question marks over the goalkeeper for Bournemouth's opening goal at the Stadium of Light.

Vito Mannone can't keep out Benik Afobe's header
Vito Mannone can't keep out Benik Afobe's header

Allardyce confirmed last week that Mannone is now Sunderland’s number one after the departure of Costel Pantilimon, with the Italian preferred to academy product Jordan Pickford.

But Mannone was arguably at fault for Benik Afobe’s 12th minute goal in Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Bournemouth after the ex-Arsenal man was unable to keep out the £10million striker’s header.

Steve Harper

However, Allardyce attached no blame to Mannone; stressing the importance of the 27-year-old’s subsequent saves to deny Junior Stanislas and then Afobe again.

“I don’t think he could have got a stronger hand to such a great header at close range,” said Allardyce.

“Getting a hand on it was an achievement in itself.

“It’s just a great shame that he didn’t get it around the post, because it would have gone down as one of the saves of the season.

Steve Harper

“We should have done a lot better with the cross, and he (Afobe) has got in front of John (O’Shea) to get the header in.

“You can’t blame Vito for that goal, for me, for such a close-range header.

“His saves after that were the most important, because they kept us in the game.”

New signing Steve Harper was not even involved in the warm-up after penning a short-term deal last week to provide cover for both Mannone and Pickford.

But Allardyce says it was a straightforward decision to bring in the ex-Newcastle stopper as a back-up option, given he was out-of-contract after his release by Hull last summer.

“It was never going to be a problem with Steve coming here as the back-up to Pick and Vito in case anything happened,” added Allardyce.

“I’ve known him a long time, spoke to Brucey (Hull boss Steve Bruce) about him and he had four clean sheets in the last nine games for Hull.

“We do need him and with his experience, he’ll be there.”