Friday, September 29, 2023

‘They’ve done the shirt proud’ – Newcastle battle to draw at AC Milan in first Champions League clash in 20 years

Newcastle battled to a goalless draw at AC Milan in the club’s first match in the Champions League for over 20 years.

It could be a huge point for Eddie Howe’s men in the ‘Group of Death’, which also contains Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, as they claimed the hard-fought draw at the San Siro.

Milan will wonder how on earth they didn’t win the gameGetty

But Newcastle showed great maturity in a hostile atmosphereAFP

But they didn’t half ride their luck as the home side missed a series of chances, with Rafael Leao particularly guilty of lacking composure on Tuesday night.

The Magpies nearly won it in stoppage time as Sean Longstaff’s fierce drive from the edge of the box was tipped over the crossbar by substitute Milan goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.

Howe and his team will happily take the draw and despite a number of hairy moments, the team’s performance got the stamp of approval from former manager Alan Pardew.

“They’ve done the shirt proud tonight,” he said on commentary for talkSPORT.

Nick Pope had to come to Newcastle’s rescue five times in quick succession after Dan Burn, one of two Geordies in Eddie Howe’s starting line-up, allowed the ball to run across him, forcing Sven Botman to make a hurried clearance.

Midfielder Tommaso Pobega pounced on the loose ball to test the keeper from distance and Pope had to react swiftly to repel Samuel Chukwueze’s header as the ball was recycled before denying Olivier Giroud from point-blank range with his defenders unable to keep the red and black shirts at bay.

The England international then tipped away Rade Krunic’s raking drive and turned Giroud’s 19th-minute header over the bar after he had been left criminally unmarked from the resulting corner.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek blazed over from long range after once again bursting through the black and white cover with Howe’s men under sustained pressure with Tonali, Bruno Guimaraes and Sean Longstaff struggling to exert any control in midfield.

Longstaff was appealing in vain for a 31st-minute penalty after going down under Leao’s challenge and as Spanish referee Jose Sanchez waved play on, Theo Hernandez broke down the left and crossed for Giroud a the near post, only to see him fire wastefully wide.

Giroud perhaps should’ve done better with this chanceTNT Sports

But Leao missed a glorious opportunity after doing all the hard workTNT Sports

Leao should have put Milan ahead 11 minutes before the break when he carved his way into the penalty area and past three lunging tackles to go one-on-one with Pope, but inexplicably tried to back-heel the ball home from six yards and simply fell over with Jacob Murphy hacking Pobega’s follow-up off the line.

Murphy mustered the Magpies’ first attempt with a curling 41st-minute shot which flew well wide after Kieran Tripper, Longstaff and Alexander Isak had combined well, but there was a measure of relief when the half-time whistle sounded with the score still at 0-0.

Tonali blasted a shot straight at defender Malick Thiaw and Murphy blazed high and wide as Newcastle returned determined to make an impression as an attacking force.

Milan’s build-up play was patient, but the holes which had appeared in the visitors’ defence at regular intervals before the break remained stubbornly closed after it.

There were some hairy moments but Howe and Newcastle leave Milan with a point under their beltsGetty

Howe made his move with 27 minutes remaining when he sent on Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron for Anthony Gordon and Murphy, although Pope had to field a stabbed shot from substitute Tijjani Reijnders within seconds.

Frustration grew among the Rossoneri ranks with Hernandez chancing his arm from all of 35 yards only for Botman to thump his attempt away, although Tonali was applauded warmly by the home fans when he was replaced by Elliot Anderson with 18 minutes remaining.

Leao might have atoned for his first-half blunder when he dived to meet Alessandro Florenzi’s 74th-minute cross, but he sent his header over Pope’s crossbar, and a late flurry by Milan was met with stern resistance as the game ended goalless, but only after substitute keeper Marco Sportiello had tipped Longstaff’s stoppage-time pile-driver over.

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