Starting the evening bottom of Group F, the Rossoneri appeared destined for elimination from European competition entirely when Joelinton put Newcastle in front before half-time.
A Christian Pulisic equaliser gave the Serie A side hope, and despite Paris Saint-Germain‘s draw against Borussia Dortmund in the other match making qualification impossible, Samuel Chukwueze‘s late winner did at least see Milan move above Newcastle and into third place.
Milan pay price for slow start
Optimism was high in the red and black half of the city after Milan reached the semi-final of the Champions League last season, but being drawn into the group of death this term perhaps tempered that. Nonetheless, the Rossoneri have been playing catch up since the opening games, with two goalless draws and a defeat to PSG leaving them well off course at the halfway stage.
Despite a win over PSG in the return fixture, Milan fell to another defeat against Dortmund and a single victory from their opening five matches simply wasn’t good enough for a team with ambitions of reaching the latter stages.
Milan have looked naïve and shorn of continental knowhow, leaving them with too much to do to salvage a place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. Despite two wins from their last three matches, the damage had already been done.
Milan must focus on Europa League
Having looked like being out of European competition before Christmas until late in the game on Tyneside, Milan have been given a second chance to make their mark on the continent.
Whilst the Europa League may not be what fans, players, and the Diavolo hierarchy had in mind, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for silverware and a route into the Champions League next term, particularly with the top four race in Serie A growing tighter.
AS Roma have shown that Italian clubs can be a force to be reckoned with in the Europa League, having reached last season’s final, and it is imperative that Milan take their campaign seriously.
Tomori impresses on home soil
One of the few highlights of a dreadful first half performance for Milan was Fikayo Tomori, with the centre-back catching the eye upon his return to England and showing his worth in front of Three Lions coach Gareth Southgate at St James’ Park.
The former Chelsea defender pulled off a stunning block to deny a certain goal, whilst his tight marking of Callum Wilson prevented his England international teammate from causing Milan real problems.
With the Rossoneri pushing forward in search of a winner after Pulisic‘s equaliser, Tomori maintained his composure to deal with Newcastle counterattacks, whilst he almost wrapped up the win in stoppage time after popping up at the other end of the pitch and striking the post.