Teemu Pukki passed up the chance to fire bottom-of-the-table Norwich to a priceless Premier League win at Newcastle as two points went begging.
The Canaries enjoyed the better of a tense encounter played out in front of a crowd of 52,204 at St James’ Park and would have headed back to Norfolk with three points added to their tally had the Finland international, who scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture, taken one of a series of openings which came his way.
In the event, poor finishing and the heroics of Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka, who made key saves from Sam Byram and Pukki, ensured the game finished 0-0 with Steve Bruce’s men grateful for a point on a day when they scarcely deserved it.
The Canaries would have been ahead with just five minutes gone had Dubravka not pulled off a fine reaction save to repel Byram’s near-post header from an Ondrej Duda corner.
Newcastle gradually worked their way into the game after having to play second fiddle during the early exchanges and with Allan Saint-Maximin and Matt Ritchie down the left and DeAndre Yedlin down the right starting to see more of the ball, they were beginning to pose a threat.
Nevertheless, Dubravka had to tip Pukki’s rising 17th-minute half-volley over after Yedlin headed Duda’s cross into his path, but the home side should have been ahead four minutes later when Tim Krul could only palm Joelinton’s header to Miguel Almiron, who missed the target with his follow-up.
Norwich continued to enjoy more than their fair share of possession as their hosts sat deep and might have gone ahead when Pukki was slipped in behind the Magpies’ rearguard with 29 minutes gone, but defender Federico Fernandez got back to make a perfectly-timed block.
A back-pedalling Dubravka was relieved to see Duda’s deflected shot loop on the the roof of his net with nine minutes of the half remaining, and it was the visitors who headed for the dressing rooms the happier at the break.
Daniel Farke’s men took up where they had left off to press a misfiring Newcastle back into their own half, and they went close once again when Kenny McLean glanced another Duda corner wide of the far post.
That was the signal for Steve Bruce to send on Inter Milan loanee Valentino Lazaro, although it was Saint-Maximin who forced a regulation save from Krul after Almiron’s pacy run upfield on the hour.
The Holland international made a much better stop seconds later after another former Magpie Grant Hanley had sliced Saint-Maximin’s cross towards his own goal, but Pukki failed to capitalise on the escape when he fired wastefully over after Duda, Todd Cantwell and Lukas Rupp had countered swiftly.
Krul tipped Saint-Maximin’s 69th-minute effort wide as it arced across him towards the far post, but Pukki squandered another glorious opportunity at the other end with 20 minutes remaining when he was put through by Duda and could not beat Dubravka, whose defenders rallied to smuggle the ball away.
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