Roberto Martinez described Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Norwich City at the DW Stadium as the most satisfying and proud of the season.
Arouna Kone’s late strike sealed the three points, claiming back-to-back wins in the process, a first ever league win over the Canaries and the first time the team have recorded a win after an international break since 2009, keeping a first home clean sheet of the season to boot.
Speaking after the game, Martinez said:
“We knew before the game how difficult a test it would be, especially as we’ve not picked up a win after an international break since 2009.
“Losing 13 players at this stage of the season is always difficult, but the way they all came back and focused themselves, knowing a lack of energy would mean we couldn’t be at our best, showed incredible character and the knowledge to keep Norwich quiet.
“To prevent a team having any shots on target in this division requires immense effort, and to score against this Norwich side that have five clean sheets this year and kept Sunderland at bay in their last game despite being a man down was a sign of the players’ determination to take three points.
“It’s probably the most satisfying win of the season; claiming back-to-back wins at home for the first time, picking up three points after an international break and claiming our first ever league win over Norwich.”
With five clean sheets to their name so far in 2013, Martinez was under no illusion as to how stubborn Chris Hughton’s defence would be, but was delighted with the goal his team scored as well as his own defence’s resolute performance:
He said: “Norwich work extremely hard to stop you having any time or quality on the ball, and that was the first time we were able to find Jordi in space with time to pick a pass and when he gets that opportunity his vision is up there with the best in the Premier League.
“It was a special ball he played through after Shaun Maloney’s good work, and then the finish from Arouna was clinical and full of quality, well worthy of three points.
“We had chances previously, with Jordi and Antolin Alcaraz going close, so we were looking more likely to find a goal but I was just as impressed with our work at the other end of the pitch.
“When you’re tired and fatigued like most of our players were it can be easy to make mistakes and leave yourself exposed, but we kept that concentration needed to secure a clean sheet which was a phenomenal effort.
“It would be very unfair to highlight one player in particular, but I must admit that Antolin was special; the way he read the play, imposed himself in every aerial battle and took the responsibility to start the play from the back was great to see.
“But it was a team effort with tired legs doing everything needed to get us over the finish line, and from that perspective it was the most significant performance of the season.”