Aleksandar Mitrovic's derby equaliser could prove vital for Newcastle's survival hopes

Mitrovic's late header ended Newcastle's torrid run of defeats to arch-rivals Sunderland, and his goal could well be the platform for the Magpies' survival bid.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's derby equaliser could prove vital for Newcastle's survival hopes
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates his equaliser against Sunderland on Sunday. | Photo: Getty

Aleksandar Mitrovic's derby heroics on Sunday afternoon might just propel Newcastle United to safety.

The Serbian striker rose highest to head home in the 83rd minute of Sunday's 1-1 draw, sending St. James' Park into raptures.

Mitrovic's goal made sure that Sunderland's run of consecutive wins against the Magpies was finally ended, but it could go on to save Newcastle far more than the taunts from their North East rivals - it could just be the catalyst that fires them to Premier League safety.

A seventh straight defeat against Sunderland would have spelled disaster for Newcastle, especially with Norwich City gaining a valuable three points away at West Brom over the weekend too.

True, a point is a frustrating outcome for both Newcastle and Sunderland, leaving the two slumped in the relegation zone heading into the international break. Before the clash, Sunderland would have welcomed a single point more than their opponents, but at the full time whistle on Sunday it was the Black Cats who were left to feel sorry for themselves after failing to hold on to another lead.

As for Newcastle, their runs of six consecutive derby defeats and four consecutive Premier League defeats have now come to an end, and they've picked up their first goal and first point of the Rafa Benitez era at St. James' Park.

Many fans saw the crunch clash on Sunday as a must-win for Newcastle, but with key clashes against the likes Norwich, Aston Villa, and Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace (who are quickly becoming sucked into the relegation scrap), there is plenty left to be decided this season.

Sunday's derby saw Rafa Benitez's first game at St. James' Park as Newcastle boss (Getty)
Sunday's derby saw Rafa Benitez's first game at St. James' Park as Newcastle boss. | Photo: Getty

Are Newcastle improving under Benitez?

There was plenty of praise for Newcastle's side after their loss to Leicester in Rafa's first game in charge. The Magpies matched the league leaders all game and only came away with nothing because of Shinji Okazaki's brilliant goal - which perhaps should have been ruled out for offside as well.

On Sunday it was a different story. In truth, Newcastle looked very nervous throughout the first half and Sunderland controlled the game, deservedly taking the lead through Jermaine Defoe. But Benitez clearly said the right things at the interval as his Newcastle side came out much improved for the second half, pressing enough to eventually warrant a share of the points.

The frustration grew immensely throughout the second half as Newcastle's efforts on goal seemed to grow tamer and tamer, but those in black-and-white would not grow disheartened and continued to push forward in search of a goal. Their never-say-die attitude could go a long way in assisting their bid to avoid relegation, but they will have to learn to be more ruthless in front of goal if they are to get the points they need to stay up.

The relief that Mitrovic's goal brought to not only the fans of Newcastle, but his teammates as well, may just push Newcastle that little bit further to survival.

The huge clashes don't let up for Newcastle, as they travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich in their next game. Another case of away day disappointment could prove to be curtains for Benitez's men, with Norwich having the chance to move six points clear of Newcastle.

If Benitez can keep the belief that earned Newcastle their derby point within his squad, Newcastle may have a much better chance of staying up than people think.