AC Milan beats Newcastle, but both eliminated from Champions League
NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — AC Milan and Newcastle were eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday after the Italian team’s 2-1 win at St. James’ Park that ensured Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappé qualified for the round of 16 instead.
Milan at least claimed the consolation prize of dropping into the Europa League playoff round after Samuel Chukwueze’s 84th-minute winner lifted last season’s Champions League semifinalist above Newcastle into third place in Group F.
Milan joined PSG on eight points after the six group games, but finished behind the French team courtesy of an inferior head-to-head record.
“It's a massive accomplishment,” said Christian Pulisic, who equalized for Milan in the 59th minute to become the first U.S. international to score for three different teams in the Champions League, after Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea.
“We have a chance to win a great competition. Of course we wanted to continue in the Champions League but we look forward to competing in the Europa League.”
Newcastle’s first Champions League campaign in 20 years — and its first under Saudi ownership — ended in disappointment as it finished bottom of a tough group and out of Europe altogether, just like Manchester United on Tuesday.
It's a big blow to the northeast club with its new-found status as a potential disruptor for the established elite. Expect Newcastle, which has the richest owners in club soccer following its 2021 takeover by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, to be a force in European soccer for years to come, but it won't be this season.
“We are absolutely devastated not to go through,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.
“I couldn't be prouder of what they have given me, physically and mentally. I do think we left everything on the pitch and we can't have any regrets. Of course, we will learn from it and try to absorb everything we need to take into the Premier League.”
With PSG drawing 1-1 at Borussia Dortmund, a win for Newcastle would have qualified the English team for the knockout stage.
And it looked on when Joelinton gave the hosts the lead with a rasping drive in the 33rd minute.
Pulisic equalized after Olivier Giroud's brilliant pass across the edge of the six-yard box, putting him on eight Champions League goals — twice as many as any other American. DaMarcus Beasley and Weston McKennie have scored four each.
After Rafael Leao struck a shot against the post, Chukwueze — on as a substitute for just 68 seconds — grabbed the winning goal on the break with a curling finish.
“We’re disappointed to have ended our run in the Champions League," Milan coach Stefan Pioli said. "We knew the group was tough but I believe we deserved more — we should have taken our chances in the other games.”
Milan is a seven-time European champion and also has won the now-defunct European Cup Winners' Cup, in 1968 and '73. The club has never won the Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.
Newcastle will rue the moment Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan flung himself to his left and tipped a goalbound shot from Bruno Guimaraes onto the crossbar when the score was 1-1.
The hosts started running out of ideas and energy, with Howe have selected the same defense and midfield for the sixth game in a row in all competitions amid an injury crisis.
“The value of the squad first and foremost, that’s what’s exposed us — the fact we haven’t had the ability to utilize the squad we’ve created,” said Howe, who was leading a team in a Champions League campaign for the first time. "We’ve gone into games very limited in what we can do and that hasn’t helped us.”
With only two Premier League teams — Manchester City and Arsenal — advancing to Monday's draw, it's the weakest round-of-16 challenge for 11 years by a country widely considered to have the strongest top flight in European soccer.
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