Newcastle United are off the mark in the Champions League.

Travelling to AC Milan, last year’s semi-finalists, was never going to be easy as Newcastle took a seat at the top table of European football for the first time in over twenty years.

While they had to rely on Nick Pope to make a number of key saves during the game, earning a point inside the San Siro is hardly a bad start to the Champions League campaign.

AC Milan v Newcastle United FC: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Indeed, Eddie Howe’s side – given last season’s form – will surely fancy their chances against anyone at home, so getting a point on the board early from their travels has to be seen as a positive.

Howe was certainly impressed with one aspect of the evening, too.

Eddie Howe says Newcastle’s defending in the 18-yard box went ‘perfectly’

The Newcastle manager believes his team defended their 18-yard box “perfectly” as planned, albeit they were “loose” in other areas.

Speaking after the game (via the UEFA Champions League’s official LIVE blog), he said: “We did not aim to defend deep.

“Our defending was a bit loose, but around the game we defended the 18-yard box perfectly. We know we can grow and improve. We can be very positive about the next game.”

AC Milan v Newcastle United FC: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Newcastle will need more going forward

Granted, a lot of Milan’s chances came from either Rafael Leao’s individual brilliance or long-range efforts, so Howe is right in that Newcastle weren’t consistently cut open.

Still, they will need more going forward if they’re going to progress even into the Europa League by finishing third in Group F.

Playing like that on the road is one thing and, frankly, understandable considering it was the club’s first game back at this level for so long.

While it has built a platform, more will be needed when Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund come to St James’ Park.

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