Rafael Leao regretful for a bad miss as Newcastle gain point in UCL opener at AC Milan

Rafael Leao regretful for a bad miss as Newcastle gain point in UCL opener at AC Milan

As Newcastle’s Champions League opening at AC Milan ended goalless, Rafael Leao’s spectacular miss saved them.

The Portugal international, who was Newcastle star Sandro Tonali’s teammate at San Siro until his £53million summer switch to Tyneside, tripped himself after trying an audacious flick at the end of a stunning 34th-minute run with only goalkeeper Nick Pope to beat.

Pope will feel he earned his good fortune after making five first-half saves in six minutes to set up a 0-0 draw to give the Magpies a priceless first point in Group F on their 20-year return to European football’s top table.
The seven-time winners, who were humiliated 5-1 by derby rivals Inter Milan on Saturday, had enough chances but couldn’t take them, much to the displeasure of the locals in a 65,695-person crowd.

Pope saved Newcastle five times when Dan Burn, one of Eddie Howe’s two Geordies, let the ball pass across him, prompting Sven Botman to make a hasty clearing.

Pope had to react quickly to parry Samuel Chukwueze’s header as the ball was recycled before stopping Olivier Giroud from point-blank range with his defenders unable to stop the red and black shirts.
After being left shamefully unmarked from the corner, the England international saved Rade Krunic’s sweeping effort and Giroud’s 19th-minute header over the bar.

As Tonali, Bruno Guimaraes, and Sean Longstaff struggled to hold midfield, Ruben Loftus-Cheek fired over from long range after breaking through the black and white cover again.

Longstaff appealed for a 31st-minute penalty after falling under Leao’s challenge, but Spanish referee Jose Sanchez waved play on. Theo Hernandez broke down the left and crossed for Giroud, who fired wide at the near post.

Leao should have put Milan ahead 11 minutes before halftime when he drove into the penalty area and past three lunging tackles to go one-on-one with Pope, but he tried to back-heel from six yards and fell over, with Jacob Murphy hacking Pobega’s follow-up off the line.
After Kieran Tripper, Longstaff, and Alexander Isak had combined excellently, Murphy fired a curling 41st-minute shot wide, but the Magpies were relieved when halftime came with the score 0-0.

Newcastle returned keen to attack, with Tonali shooting straight at Malick Thiaw and Murphy shooting wide.

Milan’s buildup play was patient, but the visitors’ defense’s vulnerabilities that had opened frequently before the half remained firmly closed.
Howe substituted Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron for Anthony Gordon and Murphy with 27 minutes left, but Pope had to save a Tijjani Reijnders stabbing shot within seconds.

Hernandez attempted a 35-yard shot that Botman blocked, but Tonali was hailed by the home crowd when he was substituted for Elliot Anderson with 18 minutes left.

Leao dived to meet Alessandro Florenzi’s 74th-minute cross, but his header went over Pope’s crossbar. Milan’s late flurry was met with stern resistance, and the game ended goalless after substitute keeper Marco Sportiello tipped Longstaff’s stoppage-time piledriver over.

Rafael Leao regretful for a bad miss as Newcastle gain point in UCL opener at AC Milan

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