Newcastle United, making their Champions League debut after a two-decade absence, held AC Milan to a 0-0 draw at San Siro on Tuesday as the hosts missed countless chances in the Group F opening.
Rafael Leo, a Portuguese winger for Milan who has scored in his past two games, was a constant threat down the left and kept Newcastle’s defense on its toes, but his goal-scoring ability let him down.
“We’re disappointed, because when you play like this, you have to win,” Milan manager Stefano Pioli said.
“The performance was all-round good, but we wanted to win. Our aim is to progress from this group and we wanted to start well. We didn’t take easy chances.”
Tommaso Pobega and Leo both attempted long-range shots for the 2018 Champions League semifinalists, who then forced a stop from Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope. Samuel Chukwueze also had a header saved.
Leo, 24, had the best chance of the first half in the 34th minute, but his creative backheel was mishandled after he skipped past two players in the penalty area.
Newcastle’s defense improved, but Milan kept up the pressure in pursuit of the opening goal after the break.
Leo was provided with a pin-point cross by halftime substitute Alessandro Florenzi in the 74th minute, but the Portuguese once more missed the goal as he headed the ball over the crossbar.
Having to replace both goalkeeper Mike Maignan and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek delivered a double injury blow to Milan, who finished the game with a total of 25 shots.
The visitors’ actions at the other end of the field were restricted to counterattacks.
In the 95th minute, Sean Longstaff’s effort from the outskirts of the area forced Eddie Howe’s team’s replacement goalkeeper Marco Sportiello to make a save.
“It was emotional. We take this draw and point, a point we fought to get and we’re happy about,” said Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali, who left Milan in the close season.
However, the draw could be detrimental to both teams in the difficult group that includes Borussia Dortmund, the 1997 European Cup champions, and French champions Paris Saint-Germain, who play later on Tuesday.
The following day, Milan will play in Dortmund, Germany, while Newcastle will welcome PSG at St. James’ Park.