AC Milan did everything but score against Newcastle United as they were frustrated in their opening Champions League group stage game.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) writes this morning about ‘another type of pain compared to the derby’ for Milan. Perhaps this hurts more too, because Milan did everything to deserve their 5-1 defeat to Inter, but against Newcastle they had 25 shots and did everything to win but score.
They had nine shots on target against the Premier League side, conceding just one shot on target in the 95th minute. There was a lack of malice in front of goal, but Stefano Pioli can be happy with the response from his team.
Fikayo Tomori was the best player, the build-up play and creation of chances was there – as demonstrated by the shots on goal – and ultimately there was only ever one side that deserved to win against an ‘ambitious and strong’ Newcastle.
On the contrary, a 0-0 at home against the team – on paper at least – who are the weakest in the group is not a positive result, especially with difficult trips to Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain to follow.
Of course the Rossoneri win and lose as a team, but Rafael Leao’s 34th-minute chance really stands out. He surged into the box having received the ball from Theo, beating two men on the dribble, and all of San Siro expected the winger to slot in.
Instead, the Portuguese twisted and turned, put his back to the goal and stumbled into a crazy back heel, which didn’t make much sense at all given he had the ball on his favoured right foot at the time.
That could (and should) have been the potential game-winning goal. The paper are curious to know what Zlatan Ibrahimovic said to him at the end of the match and if Leao’s Ballon d’Or potential will ever become reality.
This time Milan’s good start lasted more than four minutes. In the first quarter of an hour they management more shots on target than in the entire derby.
Tommaso Pobega tested Nick Pope from just outside the box, then he saved a Samuel Chukwueze header, and also a close-range stab at goal from Olivier Giroud a minute later.
In the 19th minute Theo Hernandez arrived flying like a volleyball player from the second line and headed Krunic’s corner at Pope who saved smartly. In the 32nd minute, Theo’s run and cut-back saw Giroud hit the side-netting.
Then Leao’s unfortunate back heel happened, and in the follow-up a shot by Pobega was stopped on the line by Murphy. It was a ‘hail of punches’ that Newcastle absorbed without reacting and testing Milan at the other end.
Milan had 15 shots to two at half-time, with seven on target. The team looked angry but also concentrated, humble and patient. Tomori’s ferocity was the defensive spirit missing against Inter, while Malick Thiaw was attentive and clean compared to Saturday.
Calabria didn’t play much as a midfielder and instead put in work out wide. In general, Milan didn’t expose themselves to too many risks and took their moments in the game when they appeared rather than trying to force it.
One of Pioli’s best moves was to move Ruben Loftus-Cheek centrally to mark Bruno Guimaraes, the metronome of the Magpies, and he had little impact. Sandro Tonali also did very little, giving the ball away often.
The snappy Chukwueze had the better of Dan Burn but could have done more. When the Toon brought on Almiron and Wilson very little changed. It may only be a point instead of three, but if Milan play like that in the other five group games they will fancy their chances.