Tuesday 27 September 2016

Newcastle leave it late as Rafa Benitez secures his first point against Sunderland

Damian Spellman

Published 20/03/2016 | 16:10

Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the first goal for Newcastle
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the first goal for Newcastle

Aleksandar Mitrovic ended Newcastle's miserable derby run against Sunderland with a late equaliser which left both clubs still in Barclays Premier League relegation trouble.

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The Serbia international struck with an 83rd-minute header to cancel out Jermain Defoe's first-half opener and deny the Black Cats a seventh successive victory in the fixture in front of a raucous crowd of 52,311 at St James' Park.

In the process, he handed new manager Rafael Benitez a first point since he replaced Steve McClaren, but a 1-1 draw was less than either side needed and both remain inside the relegation zone and in severe danger of slipping into the Sky Bet Championship.

For the second game in a row, Sam Allardyce was left to bemoan the loss of two precious points in an away fixture with his side having had the better of much of the contest.

Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the first goal for Newcastle
Mitrovic celebrates after scoring the first goal for Newcastle

The two sides ran out knowing defeat was simply not an option as a result of Saturday's victories for Norwich and Swansea, the clubs they are desperately trying to haul back into the mix, and acutely aware of the price of failure.

They did so with Newcastle fans bemoaning the lack of a specialist goalscorer in their side and their Sunderland counterparts installing faith in the one man in their squad who has done just that throughout his career.

In the event, their contrasting expectations were fulfilled during the opening 45 minutes as the Magpies largely failed to trouble Black Cats goalkeeper Vito Mannone and Defoe, having fluffed two earlier opportunities, made no mistake when presented with a third.

The visitors settled far quicker and had greater purpose from the off with the former England striker firing over on the turn after just three minutes and then into the side-netting after meeting Jack Rodwell's cross 16 minutes later.

In the meantime, Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot had had to turn over Rodwell's powerful header from a Wahbi Khazri free-kick and Lamine Kone headed over from the resulting corner.

Benitez's men finally made a mark when Andros Townsend forced Mannone to parry a well-struck drive, but too much of their best work ended in disappointment.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez (left) stops Aleksandar Mitrovic (right) from returning to the pitch after suffering a head injury
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez (left) stops Aleksandar Mitrovic (right) from returning to the pitch after suffering a head injury

They were made to pay with a minute of the half remaining when Khazri caught out the home defence by playing a corner to Fabio Borini on the edge of the box and although his thumping strike was brilliantly saved by Elliot, the ball eventually fell to Defoe, who fired home through a crowded penalty area.

Yann M'Vila preserved Sunderland's lead three minutes after the restart when he hacked Ayoze Perez's shot off the line after Mitrovic had flicked on Townsend's corner, and Mitrovic glanced a header into Mannone's arms from Moussa Sissoko's cross five minutes later.

But Elliot had to be at his best to keep out Patrick van Aanholt's stinging 58th-minute effort as the visitors responded, and Benitez moved to change it by sending on attacking midfielder Siem de Jong for left-back Jack Colback.

However, it was Mitrovic who eventually did the trick, climbing high at the back post to head Georginio Wijnaldum's cross past the helpless Mannone.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"That Mitrovic makes me laugh. Following in Ketsbaia's footsteps."

Dietmar Hamann @DietmarHamann

https://twitter.com/DietmarHamann/status/711573095874760704

PLAYER RATINGS

Newcastle

Rob Elliot: 7 (out of 10)

Daryl Janmaat: 5

Chancel Mbemba: 6

Jamaal Lascelles: 6

Jack Colback: 6

Andros Townsend: 7

Jonjo Shelvey: 6

Georginio Wijnaldum: 7

Moussa Sissoko: 6

Ayoze Perez: 6

Aleksandar Mitrovic: 7

Subs

Siem de Jong (on for Colback, 62): 7

Vurnon Anita (on for Janmaat, 71): 6

Papiss Cisse (on for Townsend, 76): 5

Sunderland

Vito Mannone: 6

DeAndre Yedlin: 7

Lamine Kone: 6

Younes Kaboul: 7

Patrick van Aanholt: 7

Jan Kirchhoff: 6

Yann M'Vila: 7

Jack Rodwell: 6

Wahbi Khazri: 6

Fabio Borini: 6

Jermain Defoe: 8

Subs

John O'Shea (on for Kaboul, 73): 6

Dame N'Doye (on for Khazri, 75): 5

Lee Cattermole (on for Kirchhoff, 84): 6

STAR PLAYER

Jermain Defoe was a constant threat for the visitors, dropping deep to claim possession and bring team-mates into play as well as running the channels, and getting on the end of most of his side's best work. His finish was unerring after earlier passing up two good opportunities.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

The atmosphere at St James' Park was turning decidedly ugly in anticipation of a seventh successive derby defeat, so the noise which greeted Aleksandar Mitrovic's late equaliser, a pinpoint header from Georginio Wijnaldum's inviting cross, was immense.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Rafael Benitez headed for the dressing room with a smile on his face, but in the cold light of day, he will realise his side was out-played for much of the game and painfully blunt even when in the ascendancy. Sam Allardyce was once again left scratching his head as a priceless away victory, just as it had done last time out at Southampton, slipped from his grasp at the death.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

The brilliance of Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot was as much responsible for the point as Mitrovic's equaliser, but he will have been furious after repelling Fabio Borini's stinging drive to see his team-mates allow Defoe to cash in after the loose ball was not dealt with.

WHO'S UP NEXT?

Norwich v Newcastle (Premier League, Saturday 2 April)

Sunderland v West Brom (Premier League, Saturday 2 April)

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