Newcastle’s Champions League return ended in a stalemate in Milan.
The Toon Army arrived at the San Siro for their first Champions League game in 20 years and left with a point and a clean sheet after surviving a first half onslaught from last season’s semi-finalists.
Eddie Howe will be delighted with a draw at one of the most iconic stadiums in world football as his defence stood tall against the constant wave after wave of Milan attacks, putting their bodies on the line and riding their luck at times as Stefano Pioli’s side failed to beat Nick Pope.
As expected, the Rossoneri were the side on the front foot in the first half, peppering the Newcastle goal with 15 shots, the joint most by any side in the opening 45-minutes of a Champions League match in the last eight seasons without scoring, whilst also hitting the target seven times, also the joint record in the first half of a UCL game without scoring since 2003/04.
Milan’s luck was summed up mid-way through the half as Portuguese superstar Rafael Leao glided past multiple Newcastle defenders if they weren’t even there, to give himself a fantastic chance, but after delaying the shot too long, the forward decided to try and back-heel the ball past Nick Pope, but missed his kick completely.
It was more of the same in the second period, as the home side tried and failed to make the breakthrough, but Newcastle stood tall and took home a famous point, almost completing the ultimate smash and grab late on when Sean Longstaff’s was smartly saved by sub keeper Marco Sportiello.
Milan have now failed to score in their last 3 games in the Champions League, a run of 352 minutes without a goal and have failed to win in their last 4 games in the competition, their last longer winless streak since the 11th December 2013 to 3rd November 2021, a run of 7 games.
Nick Pope had a Champions League debut to remember, becoming just the third goalkeeper to make 8+ saves in a Champions League game for an English side and keep a clean sheet in the last six seasons after Alisson and David De Gea.
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It may have not been the best of performances from Eddie Howe’s side, but Joe Cole thinks it will be an important one for the former Bournemouth manager
“He’ll be absolutely delighted, there was great tenacity from the players, commitment to defend, throwing their bodies on the line.” He said after the game on TNT Sports.
“On the ball they were well off their usual standards tonight, but that doesn’t matter, they’ve gone to the San Siro and gone and got a point. They’ve got that off their back, a fantastic point for the club in the Champions League.
“Forget that performance, it took them to the 94th minute to hit the target, but that’s a much better result for Newcastle than that is for AC Milan in what is the group of death.”