Aleksandar Mitrovic didn’t hold back on his Newcastle United debut – and Steve McClaren admitted he was “fortunate” not to see red.
Mitrovic was shown a yellow card for a lunge at Matt Targett seconds after coming off the bench in yesterday’s draw against Southampton.
And the 20-year-old striker, signed from Anderlecht last month, was also involved in an incident with Maya Yoshida late in the game.
In pre-season McClaren claimed Mitrovic had a bit of the “devil” about him when he crosses the white line, and Newcastle’s head coach admitted his debut could have been one of the shortest in football history.
Asked about Mitrovic’s challenge on Targett, he said: “That’s what he is – you’ve seen him play.
“He certainly doesn’t hold back. He wanted to come on and impress.
“He’s only a young lad and he’s going to be a player, you can see that. (You can) see how direct and strong he is. We are quite fortunate (that he didn’t get sent off).
“If he’d got a red, I’m not sure we would have come back from that.”
McClaren said he didn’t see the later incident involving Mitrovic and Yoshida.
Erwin Koeman – who was standing in for his incapacitated brother Ronald in the Southampton dugout – feels Mitrovic will be a good signing for Newcastle.
But he was unhappy with his challenge on Targett.
And Koeman feels Mitrovic, signed from Anderlecht last month in a £13million deal, must “learn some things” at United.
“It seems to be hard,” said Koeman. “I think he didn’t touch him.
“But if he touched him Matthew would have been in hospital.
“It was dangerous. It was unnecessary to do that in the corner, but Mitrovic is a player like that.
“He’s a good player, and a good signing for them, but I think he has to learn some things.”
Meanwhile, McClaren admitted after the game that Newcastle’s defending must improve.
Both Southampton’s goals were scored from far-post headers.
Graziano Pelle opened the scoring with a header from a right-wing Cedric Soares cross in the 24th minute.
Papiss Demba Cisse levelled before the break, and Georginio Wijanldum put United ahead early in the second half.
But Southampton substitute Shane Long got the better of Daryl Janmaat to head another deep cross past Tim Krul in the 79th minute.
Speaking last week, McClaren – who paired Fabricio Coloccini with Chancel Mbemba in the centre of his defence – insisted his No 1 priority was to tighten up the defence.
Asked about the defending, he said: “Crosses, headers ... I don’t like conceding goals like that.
“Pelle was always a danger. It was a terrific header from him.
“But we didn’t do enough to stop the cross and mark in the box to put him off.
“The second goal was probably more disappointing than the first.
“There’s something to work on, as we always thought there would be.”
But he added: “We went a goal down. In pre-season, we might not had the belief to come back from that.
“But what a great response. We kept playing and kept composed, and what a great boost at half time to equalise (through Cisse).”