AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has praised his team for displaying spirit in their 1-0 win over SPAL on Thursday night.
It was hardly a vintage performance for a Rossoneri side low on confidence as they limped past a side who had not registered a point or scored a goal on their travels so far this season.
In the end it was Suso’s peach of a free-kick that proved to be the defining moment in the game. The Spaniard came off the bench for his compatriot Samu Castillejo and dipped a gorgeous strike over the wall and past a motionless Etrit Berisha.
Milan had chances to kill the game but – like against Lecce – were ultimately wasteful in the final third. Nonetheless, it is a first win for Pioli and one which takes the side back into the top half, five points behind who visit on Sunday.
The boss spoke to Sky Italia after the game (via MilanNews.it) and gave his thoughts on a hard-fought three points.
“I had asked the team for spirit. I think the spirit was there. We built scoring chances, but it is a shame to keep the result in balance until the end,” he said.
“The game that can change the season is always the next. I’m happy for the players, the club, the fans. We have to think about the next, game we have a very difficult and very strong opponent. In our game there were good things and others on which we must work.”
Suso had previously been the subject of fan protests due to his lack of form, but he answered his critics off the bench, something which Pioli was delighted with.
“He is a quality player, he can do more. I am happy to coach a player with these characteristics. The whole team was in the match for 95 minutes. We defended well on dead balls, I’ve seen improved situations compared to those in Rome.
“It was difficult for the SPAL to keep the pace of the first 45 minutes. In the second half, they lowered the center of gravity.
“In these games you hope to unlock them as soon as possible, the team has kept a clear head. We never fell. From the point of view of character we have done good things.”
Pioli chose to field Krzysztof Piatek over Rafael Leao as the starting centre-forward, and he explained the decision.
“I was thinking of inserting Leao if we hadn’t been able to unlock the game before the goal. We have many quality players, I can’t let them play all together until we have a better balance.
“I feel that the team can grow, if you are convinced everything is possible. We have to face the games one at a time, we must be worried about the right and fight from start to finish like we did today.
“With quality alone now matches are not won anymore. We recover energy, on Sunday evening we want to field another convincing performance.”
WHAT A GOAL BY SUSO! pic.twitter.com/Rb8zjONeWB
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