Elliot Anderson was Steve Bruce’s only positive in Saturday’s FA Cup third round defeat at Arsenal as the teenager made his Newcastle United first-team debut.
Bruce handed the 18-year-old his senior bow as an 81st-minute substitute for Joelinton at the Emirates Stadium as the tie headed for extra time, following two appearances on the bench before the turn of the year.
Anderson had been in terrific form for the Under 23s this season, netting six goals and providing one assist in eight appearances across all competitions, with his strikes split two-to-one between central and holding midfield roles.
Andy Carroll could take some credit for his performance at the Emirates but also left Bruce with plenty of question marks, having worked hard at both ends of the pitch only to squander two great chances to win it without the need for extra time.
Bruce had hinted at handing Anderson his debut in the pre-game build-up, having been impressed with what he’d seen from the youngster in training over the past few months.
“He’s been with us for six to eight weeks now, and we like what we see,” Bruce told reporters, via quotes by The Shields Gazette.
Anderson may not have to wait too long before making his first senior start, now, having impressed as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s defeat at Arsenal, where he rarely looked out of place facing a side featuring several players who earn wages in excess of £100,000-per-week.
Anderson kept his head up throughout extra time looking to inspire a rare win over Arsenal and played Jacob Murphy in behind with a cute pass down the right-flank only for David Luiz to stand in his way.
Arsenal had to swarm Anderson in the closing stages of extra time in order to see out their 2-0 third round win, but Bruce will take a great deal of comfort in how the teen talent took to the challenge of facing a confident Gunners side at their own stadium, embarrassing his teammates in the process given the big impact he made despite his relative inexperience.
Bruce will even have been impressed by Anderson despite the midfielder, who signed a new long-term contract on his 18th birthday in November, winning just three of his nine combined duels with success in one of seven ground battles and each of his two aerial contests, per SofaScore.
Anderson also lost possession 11 times, yet completed 16 of his 20 passes, took 30 touches, struck one effort on Bernd Leno’s goal and attempted a dribble. He further made one successful tackle from three attempts, with the scale of the occasion clearly no issue.