AC Milan faced a frustrating night at San Siro as they were held to a goalless draw by a resolute Newcastle United side making their long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League after a 20-year hiatus.
Despite dominating the play, Milan failed to give the game their coveted end with several missed opportunities that could have secured them a victory.
Portuguese winger Rafael Leao, who had been in scoring form recently, was unable to convert his chances, including a backheel attempt that went awry.
Milan’s manager, Stefano Pioli, expressed his disappointment, saying, “We’re disappointed because when you play like this, you have to win. Our aim is to progress from this group, and we wanted to start well. We didn’t take easy chances.”
In the first half, Milan had the upper hand, with Tommaso Pobega and Leao testing Newcastle’s goalkeeper Nick Pope with long-range efforts. Samuel Chukwueze also had a header saved. However, the best opportunity of the half fell to Leao, who miscued a backheel attempt.
Newcastle, on the other hand, struggled to create chances, and their only shot on target came in the 95th minute when Sean Longstaff forced a save from substitute Milan goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.
Milan were dealt a blow with injuries to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and goalkeeper Mike Maignan. Newcastle defended resolutely, frustrating Milan’s attempts to break the deadlock.
While the draw may leave both teams feeling somewhat frustrated, they face a challenging Group F with Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund as opponents.
Milan will travel to Germany to face Dortmund, while Newcastle will host PSG at St James’ Park.
Eddie Howe, Newcastle’s manager, acknowledged the significance of the draw, saying, “It was emotional. We take this draw and point, a point we fought to get and we’re happy about.”
In their long-awaited return to the Champions League, Newcastle will find some consolation in earning a point against one of Italy’s football giants.