Mixed emotions for Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio did not know whether to laugh or cry after seeing Sunderland stage a dramatic fightback to book their place in the third round of the Capital One Cup.
The Black Cats were hurtling out of the competition at the hands of League One MK Dons when they finally slipped into top gear with just 12 minutes of normal time remaining to drag themselves back from 2-0 down to win 4-2.
Di Canio said: "It was very bad, but I know also it is easy to play badly in this game. Unfortunately, it happens even to the top clubs who play with the top players in this league.
"It's something that have thought for many years, why do top teams in the cup in England have to go out easily against League One and League Two sides? I don't understand.
"But I understand [now]. I was worried, and I was right, but I took something really good from the last 15 minutes, the ambition, the desire, the pride and the goals that we scored in style.
"I am very, very happy for 15 minutes; I am very, very angry for 75, so the balance is not very good."
Sunderland looked to be dead and buried after MK Dons took the game by the scruff of the neck and established a 2-0 lead within 55 minutes.
Neither Patrick Bamford's seventh-minute opener nor Izale McLeod's cool strike 10 minutes of the restart came against the run of play with the Black Cats distinctly second-best.
By that point, the cavalry had arrived in the shape of substitute Connor Wickham, although the visitors had negotiated their way to within 12 minutes of the final whistle before their defences were finally breached.
It was Jozy Altidore who sparked the fightback, running on to Wickham's through-ball to claim his first goal in English football, but it was the former Ipswich striker who broke MK Dons hearts with a quick-fire double inside the last four minutes with Adam Johnson completing the job in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Wickham, an £8.1million Steve Bruce signing, has found the going tough on Wearside after bursting on to the scene as a precocious teenager at Portman Road, but he chose his moment to impress his current manager.
Di Canio said: "He turned the game. He has improved a lot in the last few weeks, I have seen a very good improvement, not because he scored two goals tonight, but his body language and desire.
"A few days ago, we had a chat for 45 minutes together to help him because he is still only young. He is a big fella, but still young, so the fact that he wanted to hear some words help him and give him more confidence.
"This is why you saw him today for 40 minutes have the quality of a player for a Premier League club."
MK Dons boss Karl Robinson was delighted with the quality of his side's performance in a competition which he admits is a secondary consideration to the League One campaign.
He said: "I have just gone in and had a bit of an argument with some of the players because I went in and said 'Well done' and they are saying - well, I can't repeat what they said, but it was along the lines of being disappointed, saying, 'That defending is not good enough, we have got to learn from it'.
"They are disappointed not winning here tonight, so that in itself is a tremendous testament to them.
"I have got young kids - Dele Alli, let's be honest, that kid has just turned 17 and I think you will be writing an awful lot of lines about this young boy many, many times because he's as good as I've seen.
"You have all seen tonight that he's destined for going in one direction. He's got all the attributes. He's in there fuming that we have been beaten at 17 years of age."