Aleksandar Mitrovic’s late equaliser may have got Newcastle out of jail on Sunday but in truth the performance fell way short of what is needed if we are to survive.
Maybe it was a little naïve to assume that Rafa’s arrival would see Newcastle despatch Sam’s Sunderland and pull themselves closer to Premier League safety. The feel-good factor of his appointment had all things pointing towards that eventuality, but the first half performance certainly brought Newcastle fans back down to earth as the players trudged off slightly fortunate to be only one goal down.
It was a dreadful half where the Magpies seemed frustratingly lacklustre and so disappointingly despondent. The midfield’s inability to keep hold of the ball and the team’s extraordinary ill-discipline, giving mindless free-kicks away, was utterly depressing and at half time I thought the Championship was most definitely looming. A towering header late on at least gives us some hope that all is not lost.
The positives are that again, just as at Leicester, Newcastle responded well to going a goal down and Benitez was able to influence the game with his tactical switches and substitutions. They showed fight and hunger in the second half and deserved the leveller. It is however very worrying that Sunderland, for large parts of the game, were outplaying Newcastle.
The point does keep us in touching distance with eight games to go, and don’t forget, there are eight games to go.
That is a lot of football left to play and points to play for. The sobering thought is that Benitez has only one point after two games. The phrase ‘must-win’ game has been bounded around all too loosely and I was pleased to hear Rafa say that he is treating every game as a ‘must-win’ game.
Newcastle need wins, not draws or anything else. We must start to win, if we don’t, I’m afraid we may be saying ‘Adios’ to Rafa and ‘Farewell’ to Premier League football.