Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is expecting a big response to Sunderland's Carling Cup exit when they head for Liverpool on Saturday.
Sunderland slipped out of the competition at the hands of Premier League strugglers West Ham last night despite the best efforts of the 22-year-old Belgian. He pulled off a string of fine saves as the much-changed Hammers took the game to their hosts at the Stadium of Light, although his heroics proved insufficient to see them through on an evening when his team-mates were unable to match his excellence.
That came as a major disappointment just three days after Steve Bruce's side had deservedly held Arsenal on Wearside. Now, having passed up the chance of an extended run in a competition their manager firmly believed they could win, Sunderland return to league action with a tough trip to Liverpool on Saturday knowing they have not even scored at Anfield for a decade.
Mignolet said: "It's a huge game against Liverpool at Anfield with all the history the stadium has, so the preparation for that game is far easier than for last night's. Hopefully we will get something out of that because the last games we have played against the top teams, we have managed to get some points out of them. Hopefully we will do that on Saturday again."
Had it not been for Mignolet, the visitors would have been home and dry by half-time. He had already made a vital double save from Victor Obinna and then Frédéric Piquionne when the Frenchman rounded him to score the opening goal 10 minutes before the break.
Mignolet then denied Scott Parker to set the stage for record signing Asamoah Gyan to mark his first start for the club with his second goal six minutes later. He saved again from substitute Carlton Cole deep into injury time, but by that point, Obinna had fired the Hammers back in front after Parker and Pablo Barrera had combined to leave the keeper exposed once again.
Bruce later admitted his side had been flat after he opted to retain nine of the men who had fought so hard for a result against the Gunners, although Mignolet was making no excuses. He said: "When you are a professional player, every single game you play at this level you have to be happy you are playing. Every single time we go out, we have to run for the ball and we have to prepare for that game. Everybody was disappointed after the game that we didn't put ourselves in the next round.
"All credit to West Ham, they didn't make it easy. The played the ball around well, they created chances and they scored two. They kept the ball and we had difficulties. We have to be honest about that and say OK, they were the better team."
The Hammers were indebted to Parker, who turned in an inspired individual display to orchestrate his side's challenge and illustrate exactly why the club were so keen to retain his services when suitors came calling during the summer. Manager Avram Grant said: "We did everything to keep Scott Parker in the team. Our financial situation, everybody knows, so part of our vision for the club was to take players who are hungry to play, like you saw last night with Victor Obinna and Pablo Barrera and other players who are very hungry to play.
"They want to develop and they will develop along with the club. But alongside them, we needed players who are very positive players who give everything and with good, positive experience. Scott is the best example of that."
Sunderland's disappointment was compounded by hamstring injuries to Anton Ferdinand, Kieran Richardson and Gyan, although the striker, who also took a knock to the ribs, is not as much of a doubt for the weekend as the two defenders.