There was confidence going into the game that Eddie Howe’s side would at least come out of the fixture with the Italian giants having secured a Europa League place by finishing third.
Things started positively, with the Magpies dominating possession and causing AC Milan all sorts of problems down their left-hand side and Newcastle’s right. Kieran Trippier was causing the most problems, and he certainly looked to have bounced back from two poor performances at Everton and Tottenham.
Newcastle saw all that early pressure count as Joelinton received the ball from the left and exchanged passes with Lewis Miley before thundering the ball into the top corner. With Dortmund leading PSG at the half, Newcastle were on course for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. If only they could have stopped the matches at that point!
Howe’s boys looked absolutely gassed as they left the field at half-time, leaving a nervousness around St James’ Park as the second half loomed.
As the Magpies entered the field for the last 45 minutes, the energy wasn’t quite the same and the players looked like they had already run their race. It didn’t take long for AC Milan to pull a goal back and it was such a sloppy goal to concede, coming somewhat out of nowhere.
A previously overjoyed St James’ Park fell silent, and news spread of PSG equalizing their game, which dampened the mood further. Newcastle were still on course for a Europa League spot as things stood.
The Magpies were dead on their feet come the closing stages and AC Milan took the lead with just their second shot on target in the 84th minute. Newcastle were spent and never looked like they would get a late-late equalizer.
The punishment for pushing on to get a winner was severe for Newcastle, and AC Milan couldn’t believe their luck at how open the home side were through the final stretch of play.
The final whistle blew and Newcastle’s European journey came to a heartbreaking halt. The meltdown on social media was as obvious as it was expected and some even went as far as calling for Howe’s sacking, A ridiculous decision that would be, as it’d would set the club back a long way in their development into an elite side.
Howe and his players have earned the right to turn this poor form around, starting with Fulham on Saturday afternoon. That’s followed by a League Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Win those two, and those calling for Howe’s head will be cheering his name once more.
Football, eh? It’s a fickle old game!