Samuel Chukwueze’s winner ensured AC Milan finish third in Group F and drop into the Europa League
Newcastle United’s Champions League campaign ended in heartbreak on a night of emotion and drama on Tyneside, as AC Milan came from behind to win at St James’ Park and send them out of Europe.
The Toon Army were dreaming of a place in the knockout stages when they took the lead through Joelinton’s 33rd-minute thunderbolt while Borussia Dortmund led against Paris St-Germain in Germany.
It was an outcome that would have sent Newcastle through on head-to-head results against PSG – but the mood shifted in a matter of minutes just before the hour.
Teenager Warren Zaire-Emery equalised for the French champions in Germany, then former Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic levelled for Milan.
As both sides pushed for a winner in an open game, Milan keeper Mike Maignan did brilliantly to turn Bruno Guimaraes’ shot on to the woodwork before Rafael Leao raced clear for the Italians, only to shoot against the foot of the post.
Newcastle’s fate was sealed six minutes from time when Milan struck ruthlessly on the counter-attack, substitute Samuel Chukwueze curling a superb finish high past Martin Dubravka.
It left manager Eddie Howe and his players devastated following a return to the Champions League which was fiercely fought, but has ended with them bottom of Group F and without even the consolation of a place in the Europa League.
League which was fiercely fought, but has ended with them bottom of Group F and without even the consolation of a place in the Europa League.
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Relive Newcastle v Milan and the rest of Wednesday’s Champions League action
Newcastle regret what might have been
When the half-time whistle blew to a huge Tyneside roar, Newcastle were on course for the last 16 of the Champions League – but when a dramatic second half came to its conclusion they were out of Europe completely.
It summed up the swings in fortune on a night when attention was divided between what was unfolding at St James’ Park and events in Germany, followed closely to see what impact they had on Newcastle’s fate.
Newcastle’s destiny was out of their own hands after the controversial stoppage-time penalty which gave PSG a draw in Paris two weeks ago, but they were fulfilling their part of the bargain by dominating a lacklustre AC Milan side overawed by the intensity of their opponents and the atmosphere.
The problem was that Newcastle were always living on the edge and it so proved with those goals, first for PSG in Germany then Milan on Tyneside, which was the start of the downfall.
Newcastle did not create enough for all their possession, and were punished as they employed a high-risk strategy in the hope of creating the victory and the potential to go through.
It was not to be, and a campaign that brought the glory of the 4-1 thrashing of PSG in Newcastle’s first Champions League game on home soil in two decades, ultimately came up short with key moments being a crucial home defeat to Dortmund, that fateful penalty in Paris and this loss to Milan.
They have acquitted themselves well despite finishing bottom of their group, but this has been a brutal learning experience.