Newcastle 1-1 Sunderland: Aleksandar Mitrovic salvages point for home side in Tyne-Wear derby
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 20/03/16 7:42pm
Aleksandar Mitrovic salvaged a point for Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby as they drew 1-1 with Sunderland on Sunday.
The striker headed home from close range in the 83rd minute at St James' Park to arrest a run of six straight derby defeats for the home side.
Jermain Defoe had given Sunderland the lead on the stroke of half-time and it looked for all the world like the Black Cats would hold on for victory until Mitrovic's late effort.
It was Rafa Benitez's first point as Newcastle manager after defeat in his opening game at Leicester on Monday night, but the result leaves both sides in the relegation zone after Norwich won on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce's only change from the side that drew 1-1 at Southampton a fortnight ago was to bring in Defoe, who came off the bench that day to score.
And the former England striker had a couple of decent opportunities to open the scoring early on in the first half. After just three minutes he had the chance to turn and shoot inside the box, but could only fire over the bar, then he hit the side netting with a low effort 16 minutes later.
However, he was not be denied after 44 minutes. Wahbi Khazri took a short corner into the path of Fabio Borini on the edge of the area, whose powerful effort was palmed away well by Rob Elliot.
Unfortunately for the Newcastle goalkeeper, though, the ball fell right back into the heart of his own area, and Chancel Mbemba could only head his attempted clearance as far as Defoe. And, cool as you like, the 33-year-old took a touch and steered it through the crowd of bodies and back past Elliot.
Newcastle had their chances in the first half, with Moussa Sissoko and Mitrovic both spurning opportunities, but Sunderland deserved the lead that left Benitez with a huge half-time team talk.
And whatever the Spaniard said must have worked as Newcastle came out of the blocks at full tilt in the second half, nearly finding the equaliser within two minutes.
Chancel Mbemba headed a corner into the path of Ayoze Perez, and only the superb reaction work of Yann M'Vila on the line kept the ball from going in.
Newcastle continued to pile on the pressure as chances from Mitrovic and Sissoko saw chances go begging again, before Sunderland nearly doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Elliot, however, reacted brilliantly to keep out Patrick Van Aanholt's fierce strike from close range.
It looked as though Sunderland would hold on for a victory that would have lifted them to 17th, but a defence that hasn't kept a clean sheet since November finally creaked seven minutes from time, as Mitrovic headed in at the far post from Georginio Wijnaldum's fine cross.
The Serbian striker has become a hero at St James' Park this season, and was booked in the aftermath of the goal for whipping off his shirt and celebrating with a fan who had found his way onto the pitch.
And there would be further drama for Mitrovic late on as he appeared to be knocked out after colliding with Lamine Kone in second-half stoppage time as he tried to get onto the end of a cross, forcing Newcastle to finish the game at a rapturous St James' Park with 10 men.
Newcastle: Elliot (7), Janmaat (6), Mbemba (6), Lascelles (6), Colback (5), Shelvey (7), Wijnaldum (7), Sissoko (6), Townsend (6), Perez (6), Mitrovic (7)
Subs: Anita (5), De Jong (6), Cisse (5)
Sunderland: Mannone (7), Yedlin (6), Kone (7), Kaboul (7), van Aanholt (6), Kirchhoff (7), M'Vila (7), Rodwell (7), Khazri (6), Borini (6), Defoe (7)
Subs: Cattermole (n/a), N'Doye (5), O'Shea (5)
Man of the match: Georginio Wijnaldum