COSTEL Pantilimon is injecting confidence into Sunderland’s defence with his performances, believes Dick Advocaat.
Pantilimon kept his ninth clean sheet in 26 Premier League appearances for Sunderland in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Everton, as the Black Cats moved out of the relegation zone and two points clear of danger.
The Romanian made three superb first half saves to keep Sunderland level at the interval and continued to keep Everton at bay after the break.
But those in front of Pantilimon – particularly new central defensive pairing Wes Brown and Sebastian Coates – also shone, with that rearguard action providing the foundation for Sunderland to register back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
Head coach Advocaat said: “He (Pantilimon) has had some great games and on Saturday he did really well.
“Every ball he came for was 100 per cent and that also gives the back four confidence.
“The defence did very well with Lee (Cattermole) in front of them. They played very positive.”
While Advocaat was full of praise for the players at the back, he admitted those further forwards fell short of the standards they had set in recent games.
Sunderland struggled to exert any control in midfield, with Everton enjoying more than 70 per cent of possession.
It needed two big slices of fortune for Danny Graham and Jermain Defoe’s goals, with Advocaat admitting that Sunderland had luck on their side to come away with three points.
But it was a third game on the spin where there was a clear dogged determination in Sunderland’s ranks to put points on the board and improve their situation in the relegation dogfight.
“Everybody worked hard, everybody’s happy,” added Advocaat.
“It was not our best game, but they worked hard. It wasn’t good, but very effective.
“It could be very big three points, if you get three points at Everton knowing 14 days ago that Manchester United lost 3-0 there.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but the three points are ours. It’s all about results and the players know that as well.
“Everton were the better side, there’s no doubts about that.
“But it’s all about winning, giving 100 per cent and showing the fans what you want. That’s what they did well.
“They all want to stay up.”