AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli praised the ‘team spirit’ of his side and insisted he saw ‘positive things’ during the 2-0 win over Benevento.
Having lost back-to-back league games against Sassuolo and Lazio over the past 11 days, there was absolutely no option but to secure all three points against a side battling relegation who have won just once since early January.
In the end a win arrived, and it was thanks to a goal in each half. Hakan Calhanoglu’s precise finish capped off some lovely link-up play in and around the 18-yard box, while Theo Hernandez pounced on a rebound after Ibrahimovic had a shot saved to make it 2-0.
It was a far from perfect performance from Pioli’s men but at this point of the season results are the only true currency, and registering another win at home is psychologically key.
Pioli was interviewed by DAZN at the end of the game, with his statements transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.
On asking for spirit, heart, technique and sacrifice: “Without team spirit you can’t go anywhere, we can’t afford not to do the extra race and to race to the end. Tonight I saw positive things.”
On Ibrahimovic: “We are talking about a champion, he increases the value of a team and the quality of his team-mates. Not having had him for so long penalised us, now the important thing is that he is well. Now it was difficult mentally, we had suffered two defeats and it is normal that this is the case. We reacted, the team will mature and grow a lot.”
On Ibra’s position: “I believe that often not giving points of reference to a defence can be an advantage. Emptying the central space to favour the insertions of the players is more difficult for the other team. Zlatan has a superior intelligence, he likes to do the offensive director. It’s an option that is giving us some advantages.”
On the way to play: “Mentally it wasn’t easy, it was too important a game for the table. We didn’t have the fear of playing the ball, we have to play this kind of football that requires mental effort and important application. We need to be a little more solid when our opponents have the ball, we need to be more careful in certain situations. Our goal is great, our performance must be too.”
On Calhanoglu: “He has not yet reached his potential. I really like him because he combines quantity and quality, he works for the team, he still needs to find a little more precision in assists but he is finding that awareness that he did not have in the past. me is a double-digit player, for his technique he has all the qualities to succeed, but not only for goals, also for assists.”
On the closeness of the management: “The technical area supports us on a daily basis, we are put in a position to do well and this allows us to give 100%. We are talking about football people, they know when to intervene and how to intervene and what words to use.”