38 min: To be fair to Leao, he doesn’t let his head drop in the wake of that prime eejitry. In fact he uses it to guide the ball across the face of goal, left to right, in an attempt to tee up Giroud at the far stick. Giroud prepares to force home from close range, only to be legally bumped out of harm’s way by Botman.
36 min: Milan should be leading. What a fiasco. What on earth was Leao thinking about? Utterly preposterous. It wasn’t quite in the Mario Balotelli league, but it wasn’t far off.
34 min: Trippier sends a free kick into the Milan box from the left. Maignan punches clear powerfully. Milan counter through Leao, who dribbles elegantly into space from the left. He enters the box, sits Longstaff down, and makes space to shoot from six yards. He’ll surely score … but with only Pope to beat, attempts a ludicrous backheel instead, and trips over his own feet. What daft nonsense! Dear me. Pobega tries to salvage the situation with a low drive, but Murphy hacks off the line.
32 min: Milan nearly double Newcastle’s irritation by breaking straight upfield, Hernandez crossing low from the left, Giroud nearly flicking home at the near post. Inches wide. Goal kick. So close to the opening goal.
31 min: Murphy finds some space down the right and cuts back for Longstaff, who powers down the channel and into the box. Longstaff should take a shot, but feels a light shove in the small of his back and goes over, looking for the penalty. He’s not getting one. It would have been so soft. Why didn’t he shoot? He should have shot, you know.
30 min: A free kick for Toon wide left. They line up in front of the Milan box, waiting for a long into-the-mixer delivery that never comes. The ball’s played short to Tonali, who doesn’t do anything with it.
29 min: Trippier goes down clutching his ankle, having been caught late but not particularly cynically by Giroud. Thankfully he springs back up quickly, then has a quick moan to the ref, who isn’t interested in a word he says.
27 min: Milan probe. Newcastle hold their shape. Leao drops a shoulder, but Gordon doesn’t fall for the dummy. The visitors grinding well at the moment.
25 min: It’s a battle of the number 23s out on the Newcastle right. This time, Murphy tries to curl in a low cross only to be denied by the sliding Tomori.
24 min: Leao threatens to burst into space down the left only to be strangely stopped in his tracks by his own man Pobega, who takes the ball off him and extracts all momentum from the attack. Pobega pointlessly turns tail, and that is that.
22 min: Gordon tries to release Isak down the left but Tomori is wise to the plan and intercepts. Unlike his opposite number, Maignan has had nothing to do in the Milan goal.
20 min: Milan are on top now. Loftus-Cheek strides purposefully down the middle of the park and rasps a long-distance effort inches over the bar.
19 min: Krunic sends the corner into the mixer. Hernandez meets it six yards out, only to send his powerful header straight at Pope. Nothing comes from the resulting corner.
18 min: Milan take the sting out of the game with some patient passing … then suddenly burst forward. Chukwueze dribbles down the right but can’t find Leao with his cross. The ball flies back to Krunic, who sends a rising shot goalwards from 25 yards. Pope palms over for a corner, from which …
16 min: Murphy hassles Hernandez down the right. Then Tonali bothers Calabria again on the left. His cutback goes to nobody in particular. Newcastle look lively enough whenever they get forward.
14 min: … and now Pope makes it three stops in short order as Giroud spins on the right-hand corner of the six-yard box and attempts to force home. The resulting corner finds Leao on the other side of the six-yard box; he leans back and can’t get a meaningful shot away. Milan have suddenly snapped into life, and how!
13 min: Pobega sends a heatseeker towards the bottom-left corner of the Newcastle goal. Pope saves. Leao latches onto the rebound out on the left. He crosses long for Chukwueze, who heads powerfully downwards. Pope shovels away. A wonderful double save!
11 min: A Newcastle attack breaks down. Milan attempt to counter, and Longstaff brings an in-flight Hernandez down. He’s extremely fortunate not to go into the book.
9 min: Giroud slips Chukwueze into space down the right. The winger goes too early and up pops the offside flag. On the touchline, an irritated Stefano Pioli flings his arms around in the traditional Italian fashion.
8 min: Newcastle have settled well. Schar launches long down the right for Murphy, who tussles with Hernandez and only just fails to burst clear into the box. He claims he’s had his shirt tugged, and he may have a point, but play goes on.
6 min: … but Newcastle come again, through Milan old boy Tonali, who glides down the left and beats Calabria, only to run the ball out for a goal kick. A couple of lively moments that will give the visitors encouragement.
5 min: Murphy bustles down the middle to set Newcastle on the attack. Gordon finds Trippier out on the right. Trippier swings in, looking for Isak. Tomori heads clear.
4 min: Leao cuts in from the left and hits the first shot in anger. Straight at Pope and easy for the keeper.
3 min: Loftus-Cheek probes down the right and wins a throw deep in Newcastle territory. Baby steps for Milan after that 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Inter.
2 min: Milan spend the opening moments stroking it around the back in the our-house-our-rules style.
Newcastle get the ball rolling. “G’Day Scott, hope you’re well!” begins a cheery Chris Paraskevas. “A couple of years if you’d have told me Jacob Murphy would be starting at the San Siro in a Champions League match, I would have asked you what edition of Football Manager you were playing. After a lifetime of waking up at unnatural hours to watch us tumble out of the League Cup, it’s amazing to a̶̶̶c̶̶̶t̶̶̶u̶̶̶a̶̶̶l̶̶̶l̶̶̶y̶̶̶ ̶b̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶a̶̶̶t̶̶̶ ̶t̶̶̶h̶̶̶e̶̶̶ ̶S̶̶̶a̶̶̶n̶̶̶ ̶S̶̶̶i̶̶̶r̶̶̶o̶̶̶ have the privilege of waking up at 2am on a Wednesday for a European ‘night’. What a time to be alive.”
A moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya. “We are together with you,” reads a Uefa banner.
The teams are out! AC Milan aren’t called the rossoneri for nowt, while Newcastle sport their equally famous black and white stripes. We’ll be off after the handshakes and a quick blast of the Uefa-sanctioned 12-inch remix of Zadok the Priest. In the meantime, Joe Pearson wonders just how wise it was for Eddie Howe to reference “the lads with experience … like Loris Karius?”
Eddie Howe speaks to TNT Sport. “We’re looking forward to it … it’s loud in the stadium already and it’s not even half full, so we know it’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully one we can rise to … the lads with experience will be vital for us … when you work hard to achieve this, we don’t want to waste it … enjoyment for us will come with us playing at our best … our supporters deserve this and we want to do them proud.”
It’s been a while, but Newcastle have done this sort of thing before. Here’s some pictorial evidence of the Toon cavorting on the European stage, including a lightning-in-a-bottle snapshot of Scott Parker’s sheer glee at becoming a winner of the 2006 Intertoto Cup.
Milan make three changes in the wake of their 5-1 Serie A stuffing by Internazionale. Samu Chukwueze, Fikayo Tomori and Tommaso Pobega take the places of Tijjani Reijnders, Simon Kjær and Christian Pulišić, who all drop to the bench.
Newcastle also make three changes to their starting line-up, after their garden-variety 1-0 win over Brentford. Sandro Tonali, Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak step up, while Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Harvey Barnes sit down. Tonali is making what we are contractually obliged to describe as “a dream return to his former club”.
AC Milan: Maignan, Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Hernandez, Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Pobega, Chukwueze, Giroud, Leao.
Subs: Adli, Pulisic, Reijnders, Jovic, Okafor, Kjaer, Florenzi, Sportiello, Musah, Mirante, Bartesaghi.
Newcastle United: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Tonali, Murphy, Isak, Gordon.
Subs: Dummett, Lascelles, Wilson, Targett, Barnes, Karius, Hall, Livramento, Almiron, Anderson, Miley, Harris.
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez (Spain).
Newcastle United took to European football immediately. Having qualified for the 1968-69 edition of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup by finishing tenth in the old First Division (don’t ask), they seized the opportunity expertly, beating Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon, Real Zaragoza, Vitoria de Setubal, Rangers and Ujpest to lift continental silverware at the first time of asking. Not bad going, especially considering Feyenoord would win the European Cup the following season. Hats off to Bobby Moncur, Frank Clark, Pop Robson et al!
Today’s lads could do with hitting the ground similarly well. This is Newcastle’s first jaunt in the Champions League for 20 years, and they’re in a group with the French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Bundesliga bridesmaids Borussia Dortmund and last year’s semi-finalists, the seven-time winners Milan. First stop, the San Siro. No biggie, then. “It is a game of football and I think that’s just how we have to approach it,” says Eddie Howe, who will no doubt point his players in the direction of Milan’s 5-1 weekend capitulation at arch-rivals Inter, rather than their 4-1 victory over Torino in their only match so far at San Siro this season. Which Milan will turn up? The Toon will hope it’s the former, and we’ll start finding out at 5.45pm BST. It’s on!