Newcastle 1-2 AC Milan: Five things we learned – heroic rearguard; Chuk to the rescue

By Ivan Stoev -

AC Milan held up their end of the bargain with a 2-1 victory away against Newcastle United last night, but unfortunately it was not enough to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

Joelinton gave Newcastle the lead in the first half with a well-taken goal from the edge of the box, finding the top corner after a feed from Lewis Miley and it was no more than their pressure had deserved.

However, Milan roared back in the second half with a much better performance, equalising firstly through Christian Pulisic after Olivier Giroud’s square, and then Samuel Chukwueze found the far corner with a brilliant curling shot to win it inside the final 10 minutes.

Milan’s Champions League journey came to an end but they did secure a Europa League spot. Here are five things we learned from the game…

1. Rearguard action

It was always going to be a tough game at the back for Milan considering all the injuries that have forced Theo Hernandez to play alongside Fikayo Tomori in the center of the defence. At the same time, Alessandro Florenzi has been deployed on the left flank instead of the Frenchman.

Despite the goal conceded we did see defensive excellence, particularly from Maignan and Tomori with the Englishman leading the way at the back and making a crucial tackle to clear the ball of the goal line and preserve the 1-0 deficit. He then continued in the same strong manner playing a fantastic game and helping his side win the game and secure European football in the new year.

Maignan also made a spectacular save to deny Bruno Guimaraes, which was a huge boost for his team-mates who eventually found the winning goal. On top of that, the goalkeeper was commanding in the box and was fouled several times because of his excellent movement and decision-making in his box. A world-class performance by the two, who led the way defensively.

2. Star man disappoints

Whilst Tomori and Maignan impressed, the Rossoneri’s main man – Rafael Leao – disappointed with his performance. He rarely got on the ball in the first half, and in the second when Milan picked up the pace and started to look more dangerous, the Portuguese was still not as deadly as you’d expect especially against a rather slow Newcastle backline.

The biggest criticism, however, is on the occasion where the Portuguese found himself on one with Dubravka and failed to score on a wide-open goal, hitting the post instead. The score was 1-1 at that point and Leao had the chance to bring calmness to Milan’s game, but butchered it leaving lots to be desired. A really disappointing display by his standards.

3. Mixed feeling in the middle of the park

Newcastle’s goal came after the Magpies were given plenty of space to work with the ball, mainly by Theo Hernandez, but also by the whole Milan midfield who were nowhere to be found. Musah, Loftus-Cheek, and Reijnders struggled quite a bit in the first half with the Dutchman the only positive in the opening minutes.

In the second half, we saw an improved performance and that showed with the final result, but it was very mixed from Loftus-Cheek, who despite winning a lot of duels made some really bad decisions. Musah was also not that active, whilst Reijnders was the engine and the most positive player in the middle.

The Dutchman looked really comfortable on the ball helping in both phases of the game as he really stepped up in the second half, but he too could’ve done better on a couple of occasions.

4. Chukwueze to the rescue

Samuel Chukwueze has been heavily criticised since the beginning of the season and rightfully so for the bigger part of it, but he sure knows when to score a big goal in the Champions League.

The right winger scored what should have been a very important goal against Borussia Dortmund in Milano and now he has netted the winner against Newcastle shortly after coming onto the pitch, 68 seconds to be exact.

A big goal on a big night for Chukwueze, who failed to build momentum after the positive display against Dortmund, but has a big morale boost following this performance and Pioli will be hoping for him to continue with the clutch goals.

5. Jovic continues to improve

The Serbian has been improving in the last few weeks and continued that trend against Newcastle. Whilst he failed to score off the bench, he did get the hockey assist on the winning goal and should’ve really grabbed another assist or two but his team-mates couldn’t stop fluffing their lines.

He fought a lot and made some good moves whilst also showing his vision and passing abilities. This might just earn him a spot instead of Giroud on the weekend.


Tags AC Milan Newcastle Milan


  1. Things we learned:
    1. This group was the “group of death” only on paper. Newcastle is weaker than us and lost 3 games in a row, BVB blew hot and cold and PSG has one of its worse version since 2012. We’re really regretting the first 2 games.
    2. Reijnders is tired, on the decline and needs to be benched.
    3. We should try as hard as possible to renew to Maignan (and Tomori for that matter).
    4. Despite all these signings in the midfield, we still have a midfield problem. We neither have creativity, not ability to destroy other teams’ play.
    5. Pioli is a lucky coach.

    1. I strongly agreed that reinjders need to rest. Poor dude have been playing all match since the beginning of the season, club and country. Hopefully with bennacer back we have more choice in middle of the park to do smart rotation.

  2. 1. Leao criticism odds completely misplaced. He was out for some time and did not have 90mns in his legs. He didn’t look sharp naturally but this is understandable given this was his first outing after the absence. So cool your Jets.

    2. RLC for me has a poor showing. Misplaced passes everywhere and didn’t drive forward much. By comparison, I liked Reijnders but noted that he hesitated with his final passes in the box. Needs to be quicker.

    3. Jovic and Chuk just need time and patience to improve with the Serbian having made significant progress.

    4. Tomori has been in great firth this season. Mike has some shaky moments but generally will save us more points than cost us. He is just a next Level GK.

    1. Tomori has been paramount during the Scudetto season, now he probably has the 2024 Euro in sight so let’s hope he’ll continue to play like this.

      I agree with you 100% on Leao, the guy just came back from a quite serious injury and practiced little this week. Also agree on Reijnders, I find him too slow most of the time and I hope that the speedy Bennacer will help him in the midfield.

  3. Against Monza Pioli should start Okafor, Jovic, Chukwueze up front.
    Leao just came back after a month off, playing in back to back games 3 days apart can be risky.
    Jovic deserves to start.
    Pulisic needs rest.
    Same in the midfield. Bennacer should start over Reijnders, who has been playing every 3 days since the beginning of the season, between Milan and the Dutch NT. He is running on fumes.
    Defense Florenzi, Tomori, Simic, Theo, or Theo at CB & Bartesaghi at Lb.
    Instead, Pioli will probably go with Pobega at LB and play everyone else as usual, and then we will wonder why Milan has so many injuries.

    1. Bennacer isn’t fit enough to play from start, it’ll probably take a couple weeks. Speaking of him, there is a 12-minute documentary about his rehab from MilanTV on Milan’s social media. You can see he’s been through a lot and it’s great to have him back with that spirit.

      1. Reinjders lost the ball on the goal Newcastle scored. There’s nothing positive about that. he also lost the ball on a few occasions that led to the backline being severely exposed. We were lucky in many ways, unlucky in others

  4. 433 is the cause of Milan fallout. This isn’t Milan DNA. Come Jan, buy another good striker to form a twin attack pairing. Alternatively put pullisic as a co-strike with Giroud. 4312 is the way to go.

  5. I find Reijnders unproductive most of the time. Invisible unless he’s frustrating, he has a long way to go. Clearly some talent, but I don’t see his contribution. Reminds me a little of Ambrosini going forward, but without the solidity in defense that Max had. Maybe he just needs a rest.

    Monza aren’t pushover, but I’d like to see Jovic start with Leao and Chuk. Puli and Giroud come on at 60 if we aren’t up by 2. If we are, then rest Puli and play Camarda or Traore.

    Bennacer for first half or 60, with Pobega and RLC. Bartesaghi on left for Florenzi with Theo, Tomori, Calabria.

    It’s a typical game we’ll lose, but Leao sucked in E gland so he might show up. After he was great against Paris he disappeares. He’s psychologically inconsistent and cannot be counted on to ‘be in the right mood.’

  6. I’ve been saying it since the Inter match. The midfield is the main problem, leaving the defense exposed and the attack isolated. I’ve seen enough to know that the players we have are incompatible to function as a unit, not to mention their individual shortcomings. For me, Bennacer is the only midfielder that should be starting for this team. This is the area that needs investment, not the forward department. With consistency and service, our forwards are producing.
    For the time being, I think Bennacer and Krunic play together behind Reijnders could work better, bringing more balance and a familiar chemistry.

    1. I agree , that is probably the best midfield you can have at the moment to give solidity to the side , with Musah coming in to replace Krunic/Benna and RLC being Reijnders sub.
      If Krunic is sold then an established dynamic DM is a must.

  7. Good come back to the boys, where we get out played is in the midfield, RCL and Musah at times is to high up the pitch and our back line needed them to drop at times to collect the ball and it showed in the first half

  8. RLC not suited for no. 10 role. He lack the creativity. Maybe as a no. 8 is better because of his physicality. Pulisic should be the no. 10 if chuk can get his form and consistency.


    GK – Maignan
    Rb – Calabria
    CB – Tomori
    CB – Thiaw
    LB – Theo
    CM – Reinjders/RLC
    CM – Bennacer/Musah
    CAM – Pulisic
    RW – Chuk
    LW – Leao
    ST – Giroud/Jovic

    We should just abandon 433 formation, at least against big team. It just way to open for opposition attack. 4231 is more compact and better overall for me.

    1. and this is the formation we were used to..for all the different tactis pioli invents when using 433 (either off the ball or on the ball) it still doesnt work….the players are trying hard to adapt to the formation and as such still leaves our midfield exposed from time to time…let him just go back to 4231

    2. I’d say Bennacer alternating with Reijnders and RLC with Musah. RLC and Musah are both physical and Bennacer and Reijnders are better at building play. Of course depending on the opposition this can change.
      Although I agree with going back to a 4-2-3-1, your idea implies some backups for either Chukwueze (perhaps Romero ? can Okafor also play as a RW ?) and Pulisic (perhaps Adli and Krunic ?)

    1. Statistically, Okafor has 2 goals and 1 assist in a total of 400 minutes played. He also had some key passes here and there and good plays overall.
      Given the fact that this is a young player (23 y/o), coming from a weaker league, with very few minutes and playing in a team with a midfield in shambles and with no leader figure and was forced to play in different positions (ST and LW) while missing some of the summer games, I’d say he is doing actually quite well.

  9. I am convinced that you know nothing about football. The game plan, even if you agree with it or not, was to absorb the pressure in the first half (making sure you are still in the game until the half). There was an obvious change in approach in the second half, therefore Rafa was on the ball more. Now if you know anything about professional sport you will know that it is not easy to go from 0 to 100, which is what he did in this game. He didn’t play a minute for 3 weeks and then the was asked to start in the most intense game of the season so far. He hit the post……..he didn’t sky the shot or miss the entire goal……get real man……’s like some fool giving Tomori a rating of 6 because he hit the post (he is a defender who just ran the entire length of the field , got off a great shot that beat the keeper and hit the post) shm.
    Reinjders slow down every play, mostly plays short passes side to side.

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