NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom, March 4 – Shola Ameobi’s injury-time equaliser rescued a dramatic point for Newcastle in a pulsating 1-1 draw with local rivals Sunderland at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Ameobi pounced from close range to deny 10-man Sunderland a first win here for more than 11 years and extend his remarkable scoring record in the Tyne-Wear derby.
The 30-year-old forward’s seventh career goal against the Black Cats earned a share of the spoils as the hosts avoided a first home defeat of the year after Nicklas Bendtner’s first-half penalty opened the scoring for Sunderland.
Martin O’Neill’s side negotiated the last half hour a man down after Stephane Sessegnon earned a straight red for elbowing Cheik Tiote as the pair tussled for possession, though any contact looked light.
Simon Mignolet’s stunning late penalty save had looked like putting a dent in Newcastle’s European aspirations: the Belgium goalkeeper dived low to his left to keep out Demba Ba’s 83rd-minute spot kick, before Ameobi’s intervention.
Alan Pardew’s team remain sixth in the English Premier League, five points clear of Liverpool in seventh but having missed an opportunity to draw level with fifth-placed Chelsea.
In a sign of the times, there was just one Tyneside or Wearside native involved: Jack Colback, Sunderland’s Newcastle-born midfielder who came on as a second-half substitute.
In front of a season’s best crowd for Newcastle of 52,388, Lee Cattermole set the tone for a predictably spicy 146th derby meeting.
The Sunderland captain was cautioned after just 40 seconds for an ugly challenge on Tiote — a 10th booking of the season earning the midfielder a two-match suspension.
However, that is likely to be extended after Cattermole earned a red card after the final whistle for dissent.
Cautions far out-numbered chances before the interval with half a dozen players earning a yellow card, including Sunderland’s James McClean and the Magpies’ Danny Simpson.
Their confrontation sparked a 21-man free-for-all, while rival managers Pardew and O’Neill engaged in several episodes of bad-tempered verbal jousting on the touchline.
Referee Mike Dean awarded Sunderland a disputed penalty midway through the first half, booking Mike Williamson for what appeared to be a harmless piece of shirt-tugging with Michael Turner.
Bendtner, restored to the starting line-up wearing a mask to protect a facial injury, beat Tim Krul low to the keeper’s right. The Dane’s 23rd-minute opener was his fourth goal of his season-long loan from Arsenal, and his first this year.
Only a fine save low to his right from Krul prevented Bendtner doubling his tally soon after, thanks to a powerful shot on the turn from the edge of the area.
Newcastle belatedly came to life as the half drew to a close, forcing Mignolet to beat out a firm header from Fabricio Coloccini.
Ba came even closer to an equaliser from a corner when Newcastle’s 16-goal top scorer headed against the bar just five yards from goal, the Senegal forward wasting an equally clear opportunity straight after the interval when heading wide.
Despite near-constant pressure after the interval from Newcastle, only a stunning double save from Krul prevented Sunderland from extending their advantage.
The Dutch keeper first denied Seb Larsson after the Swede sent in an angled drive, before hurling himself full-length to block McClean’s follow-up when the Irishman looked certain to score from close range.
Newcastle’s stranglehold on possession only grew in the wake of Sessegnon’s departure, substitute Hatem Ben Arfa forcing a fine near post save from Mignolet.
But thanks to some inspirational defending, clear chances for the hosts were kept at a premium, until substitute Ameobi pounced from close-range after Williamson had flicked on a Yohan Cabaye cross.