Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez warned his side that they need to start better in matches, after Aleksandar Mitrovic rescued a 1-1 derby draw against Sunderland on Sunday.
The Serbian striker headed in an 83rd-minute equalizer as the Magpies ended a four-match losing streak.
But Benitez, who was in charge for just the second time since taking over from Steve McClaren, knows that despite the boost of the late goal, further improvements are needed if his new side are to beat the drop.
“It was really important for everyone here — from the first fan, to the last one. Everybody needed a goal like this and a reaction like that. Hopefully we can keep this momentum for the next games,” the Spaniard said.
”We know the players can do better. We had to make substitutions in the second half which worked well.
“Hopefully next time, I won’t have to do so many changes and the team will be good from the beginning until the end.”
Mitrovic, who suffered a head injury in the closing stages, could emerge as a key player in the final weeks of the season, according to Benitez.
“I said before that he has the potential. We have to help him a little bit with better crosses, better deliveries, and being closer to him. He will score goals if we can do that,” he said.
The North East rivals remain in the Premier League’s relegation zone behind Norwich City and Crystal Palace, who were the chief beneficiaries of the stalemate at St James’ Park.
– ‘Four points thrown away’ –
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce admitted: “It makes life difficult for us. Norwich and Crystal Palace will look at this and think it’s a good result for them.
“We are now in a position where we must have wins; draws are not going to be good enough for us, so we have to win four of our last eight games.”
Sunderland, who had won the last six Tyne-Wear derbies, have lost only once in six league games, but have been involved in too many draws and, to the frustration of their manager, have been deprived of wins by late goals in their last two matches.
“It happened at Southampton in our last game and has happened again here, so that’s four points thrown away,” Allardyce said.
“Put those points on the board and we would feel safe. Now it’s going to go to the wire. That’s the bottom line.”
Allardyce feared the worst after Sunderland lost their attacking edge in the closing stages and tried to hang on to the lead given to them by Jermain Defoe’s 44th-minute goal, and they paid a high price.
”When you show you can handle the pressure like we did here, you have to take full advantage and score more goals from the chances created because we know we will concede goals. It’s a nasty habit we have got,” the Sunderland boss admitted.
“We were in control of the game and putting Newcastle under pressure, so to sit back and let them come at us is a real crime to me. We know we need more than one goal.
“We didn’t get the second one, though, and ended up trying to protect what we had got. There were a lot of things we could have done to stop that cross for their goal and ended up with one point instead of three.
“The consolation for me is that we’ve been in a position to win every game we have played recently. We are doing most things right and taking the lead, but we need to see it through to a victory. That’s what we have to change.”
Allardyce is also unhappy that league games have been cancelled next weekend because of internationals.
“Now we have another two weeks to wait to play our next game to let stupid Football Associations make money from friendlies,” he added.
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