LONDON: Nine and counting. Newcastle United remain winless from their opening nine Premier League games of the season — however, their Crystal Palace draw definitely feels like a point gained, rather than two dropped.
Christian Benteke opened the scoring for the Eagles, before some Callum Wilson acrobatics ensured the Magpies traveled back north from the capital with a point to show for their efforts.
A new Steve Bruce-less era was heralded on Tyneside, after the head coach was this week shown the St. James’ Park exit door — but again, like last week against Spurs, there was little difference from what had gone before.
Graeme Jones stepped into the dugout for this one, and will do so for the next seven days until United decide on their new manager. United were clearly more organized, yet a whole lot more tentative.
Where gaps at the back were cavernous under Bruce, things appeared a whole lot more solid without him.
United, however, did have to ride their luck.
In a half of football devoid of real opportunities, only two of merit were created. One was wasted by the usually clinical Wilson and another saw Benteke strike Karl Darlow’s post.
United were bright early doors, with a little more defensive shape, which so easily escaped them in the opening game of the Magpies’ Saudi-financed era.
And Wilson went within an inch of setting Newcastle on their way, but could only find the side netting when presented with a chance on a tight angle from just three yards.
Benteke, a threat in the air all day for United’s beefed-up backline, fired a shot across the bows as he beat both Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth to a floated cross to hit the foot of the post.
Bizarrely, the highlight of the opening half came from an off the field action as United released a statement making a U-turn on their previous decision to encourage fans not to wear Saudi-inspired dress.
It seems the new owners are now in favor of it. The statement read: “Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit. We are inclusive to all.
“To reiterate what we said previously, neither the club nor its new owners were offended by attire worn, and appreciate the overt statements of support and acceptance by our great fans.”
Saudi flags and traditional dress were clearly visible across the 2,800-strong away support in south London.
After the break it was one-way traffic — and for United, a backs to the wall job.
Benteke made sure the Eagles’ dominance was rewarded when he nodded home a Tyrick Mitchell cross for 1-0. It was no less than the hosts deserved.
The Belgium international almost put Palace out of sight moments later as United’s resolve began to falter. Another header, this time off the top of the bar.
Against the run of play, however, the Magpies unexpectedly leveled as Wilson redeemed his earlier miss by producing a second-half moment of magic. His overhead kick from a United corner lit up the traveling support as the present Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, PCP directors, punched the air in the directors’ box.
Jones’ United continued to ride their luck. Goalscorer Benteke continued his profligacy in front of goal.
A Palace through ball broke the United defensive line and Benteke, with the whole goal to aim at, skewed wide.
Benteke did have the ball in the net again with three minutes left to play and looked to have won it for the Eagles. However, the VAR gods shone down on United as referee Darren England ruled the goal out for an obvious pull of the shirt by Marc Guehi on Clark.
Cue chants of “how much are they paying you?” — Clearly aimed at the man in the middle, England, and United’s new cash-rich owners.
Jealousy and hypocrisy reign supreme in English football when it comes to Newcastle United, of that there is no doubt, now.
But while the green-eyed monster dominates fan perception when it comes to the club’s owners, it does not ring true when it comes to their “on-pitch” product. That will likely have to wait until January and the transfer window.