Eddie Howe is confident there is more to come from Newcastle after they took a point from their Champions League baptism of fire in Milan.
The Magpies found themselves under the cosh at the San Siro on Tuesday evening as they opened their Group F campaign with a tough trip to AC Milan and ultimately emerged with a creditable 0-0 draw.
Howe’s team will have to be significantly more progressive than they were in Italy if they are to bank the points they will need to progress, with Paris St Germain and Borussia Dortmund waiting in the wings, but the 45-year-old believes they will be.
Asked after the game if the overriding emotion in the dressing room on the final whistle had been exhaustion, disappointment or pride, he said: “It was a mixture of all of those things, definitely pride in the result and the performance, the mentality shown.
“Not internally in the squad, the result wasn’t overestimated. They are very honest payers and they acknowledge we can perform better. Yes, a bit of fatigue as well, but we’re now looking forward to our next match.
“For us to stand up strong and come back fighting in that second half – because I thought that was a good second half display from us – bodes well for the future. All we can try and do is try and win every game.”
But for goalkeeper Nick Pope and a glaring miss from Milan’s Portugal star Rafael Leao, Newcastle could have been in deep trouble by half-time, although having got there on level terms they produced a fine defensive display after the break to plug the gaps through which the Rossoneri had poured during the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed, they might even have picked the Serie A club’s pocket in stoppage-time when Sean Longstaff forced a fingertip save from substitute goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.
Howe said: “There were a few things we changed at half-time. We were looking to tweak a few things.
“The mindset was the most important thing. The blocking of the shots, recovery sprints when we are caught out of position was all out of the top drawer, especially when it needed to be in that second half.
“We had our moments in transitions going the other way and that’s where the quality was missing, and I’m a little bit frustrated with that. As I say, we will look to improve.”
Howe will now turn his attention to Sunday’s Premier League trip to Sheffield United, with opposite number Stefano Pioli, whose side lost 5-1 to derby rivals Inter last weekend, also able to take positives from a display which promised much but did not deliver the outcome he craved.
Pioli, who also lost goalkeeper Mike Maignan and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek to injury, said: “I liked the performance, I liked the attitude. We attacked very well, we defended well, we showed that we were full of energy through the whole 90 minutes.
“We were as intense as they were – actually, we were more intense than they were – but we couldn’t win, and that’s a pity.
“Now we have to move on. There are very important games in Serie A and then we will have to play against Borussia Dortmund.”
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