Not many keepers could have matched Pope’s San Siro saves, says Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe acknowledged his debt to Nick Pope after the goalkeeper made a string of outstanding saves to earn Newcastle a precious point in their opening Champions League game against Milan at San Siro.

Pope has recently been out of sorts and dropped by England but he timed his return to form to coincide with his side’s first game in Europe’s showpiece competition since 2003. He made six vital saves in the first 20 minutes.

Related: Newcastle mark Champions League return with Milan draw thanks to Pope

“Nick was outstanding,” Howe said. “There’s not many keepers who could have made all those saves and his distribution under pressure was excellent. He’s had a lot to do with the clean sheet but our whole defence played well.”

There was particular praise from the manager for his central defenders, Fabian Schär and Sven Botman. “They were very good,” he said.

“We tried to attack and be aggressive but it was a very hostile atmosphere and we didn’t succeed. We perhaps lacked a bit of luck and some of our play was a little bit too loose at times. We’re slightly disappointed at how we used the ball but we’re not disappointed with the result.”

Howe admitted that Newcastle, whose only shot on target came from Sean Longstaff in stoppage time, will need to up their game if they are to progress from a group also containing Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain. “To move on we have to do better,” he said. “We have to improve. We know we can be better with the ball.

“But this was a new experience for a lot of us, me included. The players had to adjust to the hostile atmosphere – the crowd were very good for Milan – and you can’t overestimate our performance. Or the point. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but I didn’t think the draw was luck.”