10-man Newcastle still hunting for league win as Teemu Pukki stunner rescues point for Norwich
- Ciaran Clark sent off for mindless early challenge on Teemu Pukki
- Callum Wilson penalty gives Newcastle second-half lead
- Thunderous Pukki strike earns point for Norwich, deprives Newcastle of first league win
December is here and still Newcastle United find new ways to deny themselves the maiden win of this strange season that promised transformation and yet continues to deliver a relentless quantity of the same old disappointment at St James’ Park. There were many ways that Eddie Howe might have imagined his first night on the touchline with the Geordie nation behind him, although a plan for most eventualities may not have encompassed Ciaran Clark’s ninth-minute red card.
It was an act of such wanton self-destruction, the deadly carelessness of a team in trouble, that it was remarkable Howe’s ten men went on to lead for 18 minutes of this game. They came close enough to that elusive victory, and then it was slipping from their grasp again. As they fought out the last few minutes – Norwich unable to score a winner, the home side clinging to the last vestige of their ragged shape – even a draw seemed like a good result for Newcastle in a game they really had to win.
It is 14 games now without a victory, and six points adrift of safety. Only two sides in Premier League history have gone so long without winning. There were aspects of this performance that Howe may find encouragement in, but it is hard to say what will come next from such a volatile side.
For Norwich, it also felt that any kind of fluency was fanciful, but Teemu Pukki’s equaliser at least kept the early momentum of Dean Smith’s command going. They are unbeaten in four and it would have been dire for Norwich to lose to the worst team in the league operating with one short, although that was the prospect after Callum Wilson converted a second-half penalty. The substitute Pierre Lees-Melou should have won it in the 94th minute for Norwich and somehow failed to do so.
“I have to cling to what I saw in terms of the spirit,” Howe said, “and giving more than they were physically capable – but they gave it. We will have to give it in the battle ahead”. His side struggle on to the next must-win game, at home to Burnley – with the small consolation that it could have been so much worse. “We could have wallowed in that [red card] and thought ‘Why us?’ and had the victim mentality,” Howe said. “We manned-up to the situation.”
Beforehand, the St James Park crowd had not really noticed Howe emerge from the tunnel for his first game on the touchline. It was only when he took a few tentative steps onto the pitch that the home fans acknowledged their new manager applauding them shyly. As for Howe, embarking on this new chapter – he seemed to sense what was coming. A slight grimace playing across his face as his team settled uneasily. Nine minutes was all it took, and by then Clark had already juggled a Jonjo Shelvey pass fizzed into him. The second time he played a touch into Pukki’s torso and within a beat the striker was past him and heading for goal. Clark did not give himself time to think and wrenched Pukki off balance. The red card came from referee Andy Madley and it was the right call.
On the touchline, Howe swore silently to himself. Smith said later that he would rather that Pukki be allowed to run on goal and score, so focussed did Newcastle become on defending their position. “We just didn’t do enough to win the game,” acknowledged the Norwich manager. Howe would later forgive Clark although there was barely an acknowledgment of the player as he came past his manager en route to the dressing room. Ryan Fraser was summoned to follow him and in his place came defender Federico Fernandez, who would play well. Joelinton ended up in what looked like right midfield. No-one in that Newcastle team seemed to be where they were supposed to be.
It was another one of those days when they were obliged to battle against events and yet they did well. Shelvey always looked like he had a pass in him. Allan Saint-Maximin offered the occasional dangerous run and Joelinton contributed some wild shots. Norwich struggled to make the extra man count. That was what gave Newcastle hope – strong evidence that their fellow relegation zone languishers had no big ideas. The home crowd sensed that something was possible.
Plenty of Norwich possession but no cutting edge and at half-time, the Greece international Christos Tzolis, signed for £10 million, was replaced, by another summer signing, Lees-Melou. Newcastle looked better and there was a heroically unstylish performance from Joelinton among others. As the noise grew, there was a corner that struck a Norwich hand. The referee Madley had to wait a long time before he was told to review the raised arm of Billy Gilmour – it was away from his body and it met the criteria. Madley gave the penalty on review and Wilson hit a bad spot-kick that Tim Krul should have saved.
The former Newcastle man somehow conspired to push it into his own goal. The place erupted. It would have been asking a lot for Newcastle to hang on, and by the time Lees-Melou robbed Fabian Schar and bore down on goal in injury-time, Newcastle were playing for the point. On that occasion Martin Dubravka saved brilliantly. Before then Pukki had taken his goal well, striking the cut back from substitute Dimitris Giannoulis first time.
Newcastle had escaped with their lives although the plan at the start of the night had been very different.
Read Sam Wallace's match report above.
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The most disappointed I've been in the first three games I've had. We had the lion's share of possession but didn't have the quality in the final third to open them up.
We needed to switch play a little quicker. Our ball speed was slow today, we took too many touches. A great finish from Teemu, though.
We tweaked the system at half-time and probably should have changed it a little earlier.
Difficult and frustrating.
Eleven against 11, we win that. Mistakes happen in football and we're all together with Ciaran. We're not going to dig anyone out, we're a team.
I did think [my penalty] would be the winner. We limited them to minimal shots on goal. We kept the door shoot until the end but it was a great finish [from Pukki].
We played football and controlled parts of the game even with 10 men.
But we can't feel sorry for ourselves - we need to go again on Saturday.
That result has not changed much at the bottom. Norwich leapfrog Burnley into 18th and Newcastle remain 20th.
Newcastle become only the fourth club in Premier League history to fail to to win any of their first 14 games in a season. All three of the previous teams have suffered suffering relegation that campaign...
That's it. A stalemate!
That was tense!
Norwich had about 10 goes at it, and eventually Lees-Melou's shot ends up in the arms of an extremely grateful Dubravka.
Norwich are continuing to push for a winner, here.
This is either ending in a Norwich win or a draw, unless there is the most miraculous of Newcastle counters.
Norwich free-kick inside the Newcastle half. This is going into the box...
That might be a game-winning save!
Schär slips when in possession and Lees-Melou is on him like a rash. The Frenchman descends on goal, he's one-on-one with Dubravka, and the goalkeeper's left foot just deflects the shot over the bar.
Pukki puts a ball into the box that Newcastle clear down McClean's throat, but his ball back into box is straight down Dubravka's throat.
Six minutes of added time!
That will feel like 60 for Eddie Howe and Newcastle.
Idah is in behind for Norwich, Aarons finding him with a lovely ball, but the substitute blasts his shot over the bar.
Idah was offside, in any case. He has been lively since he came on.
Schar heads out for a corner after Aarons floats a venomous ball into the box, but Newcastle clear with a free-kick after a foul on Shelvey.
WHAT. A. HIT