AC Milan 0-0 Newcastle: Magpies battle to San Siro point on Champions League return

Sandro Tonali made a swift return to Milan after his summer move  (AP)
Sandro Tonali made a swift return to Milan after his summer move (AP)

Newcastle marked their return to the Champions League with a goalless draw away to AC Milan.

After a superb Premier League campaign last season, the Magpies are back at Europe’s top table for the first time in 20 years, with their reward daunting Group F assignments against Milan, PSG and Borussia Dortmund.

Whether Eddie Howe’s side remain in the competition beyond Christmas will likely come down to their St. James’ Park form, but a point at the San Siro was a positive start to their European campaign. It came despite the Magpies having to wait until the 95th minute for their first shot on target, the visitors certainly not at their best on the ball or in attack.

After a fairly low-key start to the match, Nick Pope was called into action twice in quick succession to deny Tommaso Pogeba and then Samuel Chukwueze, as the Magpies began to look increasingly vulnerable at the back.

That continued as Olivier Giroud went close from just a few yards out, before Theo Hernandez added his name to the list of Milan players denied by Pope. The Newcastle goalkeeper was not required when Giroud fired into the side-netting shortly after.

Nor was he called upon when Rafael Leao opened Newcastle up before slamming the door shut himself. The winger drifted inside, sitting two defenders down, but opted for an extraordinarily ambitious back-heeled attempt, with which he failed to make contact with the ball. It fell to Pobega, who saw his shot cleared off the line by Jacob Murphy.

Milan were unable to continue their dominance after the break, Newcastle significantly more solid at the back, but the visitors struggled to turn their spells of possession into clear-cut chances.

The biggest opportunity of the half fell to Leao, who got on the end of Alessandro Florenzi’s cross and could only head over the bar, having got himself away from Kieran Trippier.

Milan looked the more likely to snatch a winner late on, Newcastle dropping deeper and deeper as they made it clear they had little desire to risk what they had. The visitors nearly stole it right at the death though, when Sean Longstaff got a shot away from the edge of the box and forced Marco Sportiello into a sharp save.