AC Milan beat Newcastle 2-1 at St. James’ Park in the Champions League to secure their place in the Europa League, but the Rossoneri are out of the Champions League.
In a wonderfully dramatic game, Newcastle took a deserved lead through Joelinton but Milan fought back in the second half through Christian Pulisic and Samuel Chukwueze.
The game began in front of an incredibly noisy St. James’ Park and the home side used that noise to apply plenty of early pressure to the Milan backline.
Whilst the Magpies were not able to create any clear-cut chances in the early exchanges, they had plenty of possession in the final third and Milan had to have their wits about them.
All the Rossoneri could muster in the first 15 minutes was a breakaway involving Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao that ended with a poor cross from Christian Pulisic.
In the 20th minute, it seemed for all the world that Newcastle had taken the lead. Joelinton burst into the box and pushed the ball towards the goal where Miguel Almiron was waiting to tap into an open net, but Fikayo Tomori wrapped his leg around the Paraguayan and produced an amazing tackle on the goalline. It was a major chance for the home team.
Almiron later had a header from a Joelinton cross that forced a good, but expected save from Maignan. There was plenty of joy for Newcastle going forward, but Milan were able to find some space behind their opponents although sloppy passing let them down.
Milan’s lack of intensity in attack was punished when Newcastle took a deserved lead just after the half-hour mark.
They came forward with purpose, Anthony Gordon drifting through the middle and playing it wide to Tino Livramento. He then gave it to Joelinton on the edge who smashed a superb shot into the top corner, making it 1-0.
The second half began with Newcastle continuing to put pressure on their opponents, but Milan still had a foothold in the game. The news that Borussia Dortmund had gone 1-0 up against Paris Saint-Germain meant that both Newcastle and Milan knew a win would see them through.
In the space of a few minutes around the hour mark, Warren Zaire-Emery scored for PSG in Germany and then Milan grabbed an equaliser of their own in England. The ball was worked wide to Leao who fired it into the box and after a ricochet, the ball broke to Pulisic at the far post and he fired in underneath Martin Dubravka.
The brief VAR check didn’t take the goal away from Milan and suddenly Pioli’s side had something to work with.
Newcastle responded really well to the goal and a shot from Bruno Guimaraes produced a big save from Maignan as he pushed it onto the bar, whilst other great openings were being created by Eddie Howe’s side.
The first changes from Pioli came in the 73rd minute as Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek were withdrawn for Tommaso Pobega and Luka Jovic. That was quickly followed by the very negative news for both teams that PSG had taken the lead against Dortmund through Kylian Mbappe. That goal then got ruled out, so both sides were still alive.
With just over 10 minutes to play, Leao found himself through on goal with only Dubravka to beat, but he only found the post with his low shot. He simply had to score from that position.
Knowing that Milan had to score if they were to have any sort of European football for the rest of the season, Pioli then threw on Noah Okafor and Samuel Chukwueze. They replaced Giroud and Musah.
This proved to be a wonderful double-substitution from the Milan coach as Okafor then stormed through the middle of the pitch, played a one-two with Jovic before then finding Chukwueze in the box who sent a curling shot into the top corner, making it 2-1 to Milan.
With PSG still drawing, Milan could not progress, but the goal meant they would be going into the Europa League.
Newcastle were applying the pressure but Milan broke away through Hernandez but he opted to try and score into an empty net from range when he could have kept the ball for much longer. Another breakaway from Milan led to Tomori firing a shot against the post.
The whistle meant that Milan get into the Europa League, but PSG’s draw in Dortmund means they follow the German side into the last 16 of the Champions League.