AC Milan were frustrated by Newcastle United in their opening game of the 2023-24 Champions League group stages, drawing 0-0.
There is no doubting that Milan had the better of the chances over the 90 minutes, with the main moment being a Tommaso Pobega shot from a clearance that was desperately cleared off the line.
Nick Pope was undoubtedly the busier of the two goalkeepers as he made a number of reaction saves to keep his team in it, yet Milan just could not find a way through the visitors.
The result keeps the group very much in the balance while waiting for the result of the game between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, but Mike Maignan went off late on with a muscle problem that will cause some concern.
Stefano Pioli made three alterations to the team that lost the derby on Saturday as Fikayo Tomori came back into the defence for Simon Kjaer, Tommaso Pobega took Tijjani Reijnders’ spot in midfield and Samuel Chukwueze got the nod on the right of the front three over Christian Pulisic.
Milan started the game brightly as they controlled the majority of the possession early on, and Rafael Leao called Pope into action for the first time with a shot from about 20 yards that ended up being a comfortable save.
Milan had two very good chances to take the lead in the 13th minute and they came from Newcastle giving the ball away deep in their own territory. Pobega managed to stride into a shot from 25 yards that Pope could only parry to the side, then the cross from the left flank met Chukwueze’s head at the far post and Pope again saved.
The chances kept coming for the Rossoneri as a cross from Calabria fell to Giroud at the near post who managed to stab an effort goalwards that Pope was again equal to, and from the resulting corner a near-post flick-on just evaded Leao at the far post.
After Pobega’s strike from distance previously it was Rade Krunic’s turn to try his luck first time from distance, though his rising attempt was again palmed over. The corner that followed was met by Theo Hernandez’s unmarked header, and Pope made yet another smart reaction stop to keep it out.
Just after Longstaff had taken a tumble in one box, Milan had another golden chance at the other and it fell to Giroud. Leao released Theo down the left side who picked out his compatriot with a low ball that was flicked first time into the side netting.
The major opportunities continued to be one-way traffic, and Leao might have been guilty of some over-confidence inside the box. He broke into the area and kept dribbling and dribbling past defenders, but he tried a back-heel flick and ended up falling over. Pobega’s follow-up effort was then cleared off the line by Burn.
Deep crosses continued to cause problems for Newcastle, with Chukwueze sending one over to Leao who diverted it back across goal and Giroud was bundled over before the Nigerian himself headed over. The offside flag was up, but any goal would have stood.
Pioli decided to make a change at half-time after Calabria was booked late in the first 45 minutes for showing dissent to the referee, so Alessandro Florenzi came on to take his place.
Florenzi had Milan’s first glimpse at goal in the second half as he received a line-splitting pass and had the choice of a couple of through-balls to put a team-mate through on goal, yet he went for a shot on his weaker left foot and dragged it wide.
Both managers elected to make changes just after the hour mark as Tijjani Reijnders and Christian Pulisic came on for Pobega and Chukwueze. Howe brought Gordon and Murphy off, with Almiron and Wilson going on.
Reijnders almost made an immediate impact with a weaving run into a dangerous position inside the box, but rather than going for power he scooped a side-footed effort that Pope managed to gather easily.
Loftus-Cheek went down in some pain after beating Tonali and crossing from the byline and though he said it was just cramp, Pioli decided not to risk him and brought on Yunus Musah.
Florenzi nearly created a beautiful goal with 17 minutes left on the clock when his whipped cross from the right side met the run of Leao perfectly, though the Portuguese winger glanced his header onto the roof of the net.
Musah’s dynamism caused problems, and he got past his man with a lovely dribble before a flick from Giroud to Theo ended with Newcastle making a heroic block.
There was a very worrying moment with 10 minutes left on the clock as Maignan dropped to the ground with what looked like a muscle problem, forcing Marco Sportiello to come on for the closing stages.
The closing stages of the game were best characterised by Milan getting into the box and players either leaving it to each other or failing to connect with the deliveries that came in as the frustration of the home fans grew.
Giroud took the ball 40 yards with two minutes left on the clock and with runners either side he chose to shoot from outside the box, straight at Pope.
Newcastle finally had a shot on goal in added time as Longstaff took aim from distance, but Sportiello did well to fingertip it over the bar.