Callum Wilson and Joelinton ease the pressure on Steve Bruce at Newcastle United
The game had a draw written all over it before Wilson and Joelinton combined in the dying minutes. Joelinton slipped the ball to Wilson, and the striker, in turn, slipped the ball through Vicente Guaita’s legs.
Then came Joelinton’s turn. The £40million player had missed a series of chances, but he took his last chance well. Found by Wilson, he charged upfield and his shot went in off Gary Cahill. Game over.
"Sometimes you need time – it doesn't matter about price tag," said Bruce, who had faced criticism ahead of the game following back-to-back Premier League defeats.
"In Joe's case, the price tag, and No.9 shirt, shirt meant he struggled at times. But the kid wants to do well. He had a lot of opportunities tonight, but we’re starting to see him now with his strength."
The result lifted Newcastle up to 10th place ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
Bruce’s preparations had been disrupted by the loss of three players to positive Covid-19 tests. United’s head coach also lost Allan Saint-Maximin on the eve of the game to a hamstring injury, though the winger may well not have started given his recent form.
There were recalls for fit-again Wilson and Jonjo Shelvey, and a place on the bench for 18-year-old midfielder Elliot Anderson, who has been training with Bruce’s first-team squad.
The game kicked off following a minute’s applause in memory of the late Diego Maradona.
Bruce switched to a back four and set up in a 4-4-2 formation with Joelinton up front with Wilson.
Newcastle, so deep for so log against Chelsea six days earlier, saw more of the ball in the opening exchanges. The early chances fell to Joelinton, also restored to the starting XI, but he couldn’t make any of them count.
Certainly, Wilson, full of running, gave United a different dynamic in the final third with his movement, though he faded later in the game. Karl Darlow, so important to Newcastle this season, stopped shots from Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp at the other end of the pitch.
The half ended goalless, and neither side got hold of the game after the break. Bruce replaced Miguel Almiron with Matt Ritchie in the 65th minute, and the winger delivered a superb cross soon after coming on which was missed by Joelinton.
And that was the story of the game until the late intervention of Wilson and Joelinton.
"Both teams find it difficult to score a goal, and we were looking for that little bit of quality,” said Bruce. “We weren't clinical enough, and I thought it was going to cost us, but then we got it for the goals.”