Eddie Howe hailed Nick Pope’s goalkeeping heroics after Newcastle United earned a point in their return to the Champions League against AC Milan.
Newcastle held last season’s semi-finalists to a goalless draw at the San Siro on Wednesday night.
The hosts missed a string of chances to score in front of their own fans with Pope making a number of saves in a frenetic opening 20 minutes.
Having also kept a clean sheet against Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday, Howe singled out his goalkeeper after the final whistle in Italy.
‘I thought Nick was outstanding today,’ Howe said. ‘He was excellent against Brentford although he didn’t have a lot to do and his all-round game was at his highest level.
‘It’s no coincidence, two big displays and two clean sheets from him which is absolutely crucial to us. He was a huge part of our success last year and no doubt he’ll be the same this year.’
Milan players and manager Stefano Pioli bemoaned their missed opportunities on the night with Rafael Leao in particular frustrating in front of goal.
‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I didn’t think the draw was luck on our part,’ Howe said.
‘We’re slightly disappointed with how we played with the ball tonight but there’s loads of different reasons for that.
‘It was crucial to defend the goal, but that’s not how we prepared for the match. We tried to attack and push forward, but we didn’t succeed. We stayed compact defensively, and it worked well because they couldn’t score.’
He added: ‘Again, I’ll praise the players for the defensive qualities that they showed today. We know we can do better with the ball, but hopefully that will come.’
Newcastle find themselves in a group alongside Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund with the French champions securing a 2-0 win over the Germans on Wednesday night.
Newcastle host PSG at St James’ Park in two weeks’ time.
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