Milan fought back from a halftime deficit to beat Newcastle United 2-1 at St James’ Park and maintain their 2023/24 European campaign. Despite bowing out of the Champions League group stages, Rossoneri will continue their continental journey in the Europa League knockout stages.
Coming into the last round of the ‘group of death’ fixtures, Milan’s chances of reaching the last 16 were minimal. Stefano Pioli’s side had to pull off an unlikely triumph on Tyneside and hope already-qualified Borussia Dortmund would beat Paris Saint-Germain at Signal Iduna Park.
An impressive turnaround saw Milan hold up their end of the bargain. Yet a 1-1 draw in Germany condemned the Italians to a third-place finish in a highly competitive Group F. Newcastle took the lead late in the first half through Joelinton. The Brazillian midfielder scored an absolute screamer from the edge of the box, riffling a devastating half-volley into the top corner.
Milan replied at the start of the second half. Olivier Giroud set Christian Pulisic up on a platter, with the United States forward tapping home a routine finish to level the score. Newcastle had a great chance to restore a lead, but Mike Maignan tipped Bruno Guimaraes’ shot onto the crossbar, throwing Pioli’s side a lifeline.
Pioli’s late substitutions paid dividends as second-half inductees Luka Jovic, Noah Okafor, and Samuel Chukwueze combined in a deadly counter-attack before the Nigerian winger finished with aplomb, taking his Champions League tally to two goals.
Given the result in North-Rhine Westphalia, Milan’s impressive comeback at St James’ Park proved a Pyrrhic win. However, it could be a significant confidence boost moving forward.
Mike Maignan – 7.5
Despite occasional blackouts, the highly-rated goalkeeper delivered another superb performance between the sticks, playing a staring role in Milan’s stunning fightback.
Davide Calabria – 7
Keen to make amends for a late red card in a 3-2 defeat at Atalanta last weekend, the Milan captain excelled at the back. However, his attacking showing left a lot to be desired.
Fikayo Tomori – 7.5
His intervention to thwart Miguel Almiron from point-blank is arguably the most outstanding defensive tackle in this season’s Champions League. What a performance from the English defender!
Theo Hernandez – 7
Shoehorned into the center-back position amidst a defensive crisis at the San Siro, the 26-year-old barely put his foot wrong tonight. Equally impressive with the ball at his feet as he was at winning it back.
Alessandro Florenzi – 6.5
Dealing with Miguel Almiron one-v-one is an arduous task, yet the Italian veteran did a fine job keeping the Paraguayan speed demon at bay. But his defensive duties took their toll on his attacking proclivities.
Tijjani Reijnders – 6
You’d expect more from a player of his caliber in these high-octane duels. Unfortunately, the Dutch midfielder let his indecisiveness get the better of him on multiple occasions.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6.5
No stranger to playing against Newcastle, the ex-Chelsea star lived up to the billing, going toe-to-toe with the Magpies’ intensity and high tempo before being withdrawn late in the second half.
Yunus Musah – 6
While his commitment and work ethic remain admirable, the USMNT starlet must improve his tactical awareness and technical skills to gain a more prominent role in a team of Milan’s stature.
Rafael Leao – 6.5
Back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the Portuguese winger put on a scintillating performance. Despite wasting a glorious chance to break the parity, the Milan No 10 gave Newcastle defenders a run for their money.
Christian Pulisic – 7.5
Tonight’s game came as further confirmation of the USMNT captain’s significance to Pioli’s set-up. His constant off-the-ball movement paid dividends, as he was in the right place at the right time to draw Rossoneri level.
Olivier Giroud – 7
You won’t see his name on the scoresheet, but the aging striker made immense contribution to the Italians’ cause, laying off a crucial assist to Pulisic.
Tommaso Pobega – 6
Luka Jovic – 6.5
Noah Okafor – 6.5
Samuel Chukuweze – 7
Davide Bartesaghi – N/A
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