AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has revealed that he was relieved to get past a tricky opponent on Thursday night in Shamrock Rovers.
The Rossoneri didn’t find it a walk in the park, but they got the job done against the League of Ireland leaders to reach the third qualifying round with a 2-0 win.
Milan dominated the possession in a cagey encounter and were not quite as sharp and incisive as they might have been had this not been their first competitive game of the season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hakan Calhanoglu were ultimately decisive, with both scoring either side of the break. The former netted first thanks to an assist from the latter, while the Turkey international essentially killed the game just over 20 minutes from time.
The win means Milan will face Bodo/Glimt from Norway as they overcame Zalgiris Vilnius on Thursday too, and the winner of that will face a Play-Off game before reaching the group stages.
Pioli spoke to Sky Italia after the game, with his words transcribed by MilanNews.
“Yesterday I presented myself positive in the conference, but I was worried anyway. Playing such an important game after three weeks was not easy,” he said.
“The team was ready. and we proved it by commanding the match. We have to grow, but it was a good game.
On the continuity of the team: “I didn’t have this fear, but I was afraid of the first match, which already weighed on me. I was not afraid of the quality of the team.
“This team has been proving to be of a high level since January, it must grow and improve. The Norwegians (Bodo/Glimt) are a very strong team, but now we have to think about Bologna.”
On Ibrahimovic, who netted his first of the season: “Ibra is too intelligent a player, he understands where best to position himself. At the beginning of the game he was too deep and afterwards we used him higher. Zlatan is a champion.”
On the performance of the individuals: “I think the performances are positive. We must continue to grow because the next matches will be difficult.
“We are Milan and we must improve and maintain the highest level possible. Milan must play to win, and we will do it. Now we know that we have the condition to think about winning every single game. Phone call to Chiesa? No, now I call my family and say goodnight to them.”