Rafa Benitez backs Aleksandar Mitrovic to hit the goal trail after late Tyne-Wear derby equaliser
Rafa Benitez has backed Aleksandar Mitrovic to score the goals to fire Newcastle United up the league - if they can get the service to him right.
Newcastle were trailing at St James's Park to Jermain Defoe's close range volley just before half-time and looked set for back-to-back defeats under new boss Benitez.
But Mitrovic - who left the field late on with a head injury - popped up with a superb equaliser in the 83rd minute following a pin-point cross from Georginio Wijnaldum.
Benitez admitted he was far from happy with the level of performance from his side, with Sunderland dominating for the best of an hour.
Newcastle kept pressing though and with Sunderland sitting deeper and deeper and inviting pressure, Mitrovic finally popped up with a late equaliser, powering home a header at the far post.
"I said to him [Mitrovic] he has the potential," said Benitez.
"We have to help him with better crosses, better deliveries and support him and be closer to him.
"He will score goals if we can do that.
"In the situation we are in the table to see the reaction of the players, the way we played the second half was really pleasing and hopefully we can keep this momentum for the next games.
"It was really important goal for everyone here.
"For the first to the last fan and everyone in the dressing room. We needed a goal and reaction like that.
"I will try to build from there. I know the players a bit better and hopefully next time the team will be good from the beginning to the end."
Newcastle United finally put an end to Sunderland's six-game winning streak in this fixture with the late equaliser.
Benitez added: "To get just one point I am not very happy but the way we got the point, I was pleased with the reaction of the players and the fans.
"To keep the distance is quite important for us, especially after the first half.
"We didn't play to the level I was expecting but the reaction was so good so I am still very positive."