UEFA Champions League review

Newcastle keep AC Milan out, Alvarez inspires Man City win

19 Sep 2023
Newcastle UCL

Magpies draw 0-0 in San Siro while defending champions come from behind to beat Red Star Belgrade

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Newcastle United produced an excellent defensive performance on their return to the UEFA Champions League to earn a 0-0 draw with AC Milan, while Manchester City produced a dominant performance to start the defence of their trophy with a 3-1 comeback win over Red Star Belgrade.

Playing their first Champions League match in 20 years, Newcastle were put under immense pressure from last season's semi-finalists, but held firm throughout to claim a valuable point.

How the match unfolded

The hosts were lively throughout and should have led at the break.

Nick Pope produced several strong saves, as he thwarted former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, left-back Theo Hernandez, Tommaso Pobega and Samuel Chukwueze.

A big chance also fell to Rafael Leao, who attempted to backheel the ball in after producing a fine solo run.

Newcastle were even more fortunate moments later when Jacob Murphy cleared Tommaso Pobega's shot off the line.

The contest was slightly more even after the break, with former Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali having a shot blocked, but Pope was drawn into action again, as he stopped Tijjani Reijnders' low drive.

Leao had another chance to get on the scoresheet in the final 20 minutes, but could only place his header over the bar from Christian Pulisic's cross.

Despite all of Milan's dominance, as they forced Pope to make eight saves, it was the visitors who could have ended the match victorious.

In the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time, Sean Longstaff produced Newcastle's first shot on target with a fierce strike from the edge of the box but substitute goalkeeper Marco Sportiello tipped his effort over the crossbar.

After recording a shutout in the victory over Brentford last Saturday, Eddie Howe's side have now kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since January.

The Magpies will look to continue this positive form on Sunday against Sheffield United.

See: Newcastle report and line-up

A Julian Alvarez double helped Man City convert their dominance into an opening win at the Etihad Stadium.

How the match unfolded

City were the better side throughout, as they ended the match with 37 shots, 16 of them on target.

Rodri was the first to test Belgrade goalkeeper Omri Glazer after the Spaniard stung his palms from the edge of the box.

Erling Haaland hit the crossbar from Phil Foden's cross, before Nathan Ake forced Glazer into another good stop.

Haaland then shot over the bar from six yards out and had his third attempt of the first-half thwarted by Glazer.

Incredibly, after all City's dominance, Belgrade took the lead through Osman Bukari shortly before half-time.

The Ghanian raced clear of City's defence before showing great composure to slot the ball past Ederson and, although Bukari was flagged for offside, the goal was awarded after a VAR review.

At half-time, City held 79 per cent of possession and had 22 shots, the most by any team in Champions League history since Opta records began in 2003/04, to Belgrade's one.

Whatever Pep Guardiola said to his players during the break had an immediate affect because two minutes after the break, Alvarez linked up with Haaland to bring City level.

Alvarez then scored again from a wide free-kick, though Bukari, who produced so many brilliant saves, should have done better as he misjudged the flight of the ball.

Rodri sealed the victory in the 73rd minute after he calmly guided the ball into the right corner of the net.

City have begun the season in ominous form having now won six consecutive matches in all competitions so far.

They are next in action against Nottingham Forest this Saturday at the Etihad.

See: Man City report and line-up

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