AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli has apologised to the Rossoneri fans for the team’s exit from the Champions League group stage and highlighted the regret of the first match against Newcastle.
Speaking to Prime Video (via Milan News) after Milan beat Newcastle 2-1 at St. James’s Park, the coach was left ruing the match at San Siro against the same opposition in which Milan had a number of great chances but could only draw 0-0.
He stressed how much the team cared about getting into the round of 16 of the Champions League, but now knows that his side will be facing a Europa League campaign as they finished in third place.
“The first match. We should have won the first match because of how we played. We didn’t succeed… We’re so sorry. We cared a lot about the Champions League. The Europa League is an important competition, Milan have never won it. It’s a bittersweet evening. Sweet because Milan hadn’t won in England since 2005, we fought and we believed in it. Satisfaction with the victory certainly but there is a bit of regret and disappointment at having exited the Champions League,” Pioli said.
He was then asked if the goal is to win the Europa League now that they are in it. Pioli said: “We have to do everything we can to get as far forward as possible, we knew the group was very difficult, now we’ll think about the Europa League and doing well.”
Now that Milan are out of the Champions League, Pioli’s attention will turn to making sure they are back in it next season.
“We must now try to do well in the league by consolidating third place but with the desire, ambition and hope of doing more. Then it is clear that the minimum seasonal objective for Milan is to finish in the top four. We haven’t yet found the consistency needed in the league to get more points and be further ahead in the standings. There’s still a long way to go until the end of the season, it’s not possible to take stock. Now let’s focus on the league because we have important games and we need to find victory again. The minimum objective is to arrive in the top four, it is too important for the club and for the fans,” Pioli said.
Reflections on the group stage: “The reflection is that we certainly did worse than last year in the Champions League, but now we have the chance to do better in the league. We’re not even halfway through the season, there are still many games to face.
“I am convinced of the potential of this team. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to maximize this potential, now we have to work on this. I’m just sorry about this, I believe that this is a strong team and that they can do better than what they did up until tonight.”
Pioli also spoke to Sky Sport Italia (via Milan News), and he was asked about his emotions after the game.
“Having exited the Champions League is something that is disappointing given last year’s progress. Tonight we were good at staying within the game, we weren’t intimidated and demoralised, we played an excellent second half. We will do everything to win the Europa League,” he said.
On Leao: “He has certainly matured a lot, yes. Players are growing quickly, he is making giant strides. I didn’t know how much playing time he might have, I was constantly asking him how he was.”
Second half display: “We had a second half which gave us something. In the second half the team showed that they are strong and have pride.”
Speaking to Infinity (via Milan News) after the game, Pioli was asked if he his substitutions won the game for Milan.
“The important thing is to have quality players, ready to give their all for the team. In the last few games I had few choices, few changes to keep the level high. It is important at these levels to keep the intensity of the match high for all 95 minutes,” Pioli said.