Storms, sunshine, and Newcastle supporters body-surfing in the streets of Milan. The Magpies returned to the biggest stage and what a return it was.
There are few stadiums as iconic as San Siro—it is a stadium fitting of Champions League nights in a city renowned for its football club. Eddie Howe’s side were stuck on the runway at Newcastle’s airport waiting for storm clouds to clear over Milan. A delayed arrival wasn’t the best preparation but the Newcastle manager shrugged it off during his pre-match press conference.
If Newcastle supporters were nervous about the task at hand, Howe describing San Siro as “just a pitch” may have settled those nerves... or maybe not.
Supporters were making the most of their return to Europe. Swimming in canals and drinking many Milan bars dry. A number of supporters were experiencing this for the first time. Two decades had passed since Newcastle last played a Champions League game, so much has changed since then. Six Prime Ministers have come and gone, from Labour to a Conservative government. The North East has been forgotten about by those in Westminster. The takeover of the club has helped not just on the pitch but the region as a whole.
If Newcastle’s previous twenty years could be summed up in any way it would be a striking resemblance to the way supporters exit San Siro, spiraling down.
The build-up to the game was surreal—Jacob Murphy was every single supporter when the Champions League music began. With a huge smile, followed by a nervous breath, Newcastle were back.
The Magpies began quite brightly, not looking out of place as they passed the ball confidently.
Mistakes began to creep in, Dan Burn misplaced a number of passes, as did Anthony Gordon. It started to become a bit nervy with Milan pouncing on the loose balls and starting to dominate.
Pobega was the first to be denied, pouncing on a Burn error but seeing his powerful effort parried before Samuel Chukwueze’s shot was blocked by Pope.
The goalkeeper then atoned for a weak punch by keeping out Giroud’s flicked shot, with an unmarked Theo Hernandez then seeing a header pushed over the crossbar.
While Milan had their chances, Newcastle’s defensive display was impressive. They put their bodies on the line, throwing themselves at shots to protect Pope. There has been a lot of talk about Newcastle’s performance in Milan, many saying it wasn’t good enough.
Perhaps, that is a reflection of just how far the club has come since the takeover. Criticizing a point at the San Siro, who’d have thought?
Sean Longstaff almost sent the away fans crazy in the last few minutes as Elliot Anderson brilliantly found the midfielder before his shot was tipped over the bar.
Two clean sheets on the spin will only boost Newcastle’s confidence. They’ve looked shaky at the back prior to the previous two games. This looks more like the Newcastle of last season, a team built on ruthless defending.
Howe’s side travel to Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United on Sunday. A win there, and Newcastle may have just turned a corner.