Yes, things could have been so much different if Milan’s attacking force had taken their chances in the sweltering San Siro heat. But they didn’t and it is to the credit of their resilience and organisation that Howe’s warriors returned to Tyneside with their first Champions League point of the campaign.
Milan came out of the blocks with something to prove to their exasperated supporters following their derby defeat to local rivals Internazionale as they set about Newcastle from the first kick.
Wave after wave of Milan attacks peppered the Magpies back line but the Rossoneri were thwarted by a combination of fine saves, last ditch tackles and poor finishing as a slow out of the blocks Newcastle simply couldn’t get out of their own half.
Safe after save and block after block seemed to be all Newcastle had to offer in a first half an hour as the magpies struggled to get their passing game together. But collectively Newcastle dug in and weathered everything Milan threw at them and certainly grew in confidence as last season’s semi-finalists grew more and more frustrated by their own inability to make their chances count.
If their first 45 minutes of frustration could be laid at Pope’s door, then the second 45 was more to do with the collective resolve that Newcastle displayed as Milan ran out of ideas.
A lot is made of team spirit and the travelling 4,000 inside the San Siro were witnessing a textbook second half display, driven by captain Kieran Trippier; ably supported by Dan Burn and Sean Longstaff.
Longstaff held the midfield together while Sandro Tonali was occupied containing the running of former Chelsea start Ruben Loftus Cheek, with Bruno searching to find space to get his team moving forward.
hard working performances were also put in by Anthony Gordon and surprise starter Jacob Murphy and Newcastle were grateful for a last-ditch clearance from Miguel Almiron who had replaced Murphy for the last half hour.
Newcastle could have snatched all three points in the 95th minute when Longstaff unleashed a shot from 20 yards that was tipped over the bar by Milan’s substitute goalkeeper Marco Sportiello. The ensuing corner came to nothing, and the referee brought proceedings to an end before a second corner could be taken.
Newcastle are off the mark with a point. The team showed that they can stand toe to toe with last season’s semi-finalists, can handle a hostile stadium and the pressure that goes with it.