Pioli praises Milan after ‘difficult and important’ win over Verona and discusses defensive hierarchies

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli praised his side’s resolve as they battled an injury crisis to record a huge 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.

The injury bug hit Milan in the days leading up to the game as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hakan Calhanoglu, Mario Mandzukic, Ismael Bennacer, Ante Rebic and Daniel Maldini were all left out of the squad, while Theo Hernandez and Sandro Tonali were not fit enough to start.

Despite the issues, a wonderful free-kick from Rade Krunic gave Milan the lead as his stunning shot curled into the top corner, and Diogo Dalot was the unlikely scorer of the second goal as he surged into the box and also finishing first time into the top corner.

Pioli was interviewed by Sky Italia after the game, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews and translated below.

On the many absentees: “I would like to underline that the last two injuries are not muscular, they derive from blunt trauma from the match against Udinese, both Rebic and Theo. We have been playing every three days since September, a lot of energy expended, especially at a mental level, we have proven to be there, to believe in it.”

On the group: “Milan wins, we are a team, we are a stronger team when we are all together but also when there are no important players. We are not Martians, we can miss a few games, we know our path, the difficulties help us to grow. We know strengths and weaknesses, we are improving to increase our qualities.”

On the standings: “We look at ourselves, we are aware of our qualities. The path is difficult, the opponents are strong. It is the best match we have played against Verona, it is the one in which we have suffered less. A very difficult match in the Europa League awaits but very stimulating.”

On Ibrahimovic: “Zlatan is part of the team, he is the pack leader, he knew the difficulties of the race and the choices, he was planning to be here and kept what he said. He asked us how we were doing, he gave us advice like the big boys do.”

On the second half: “Playing often helps you to overcome difficulties, we cannot lick our wounds, we analyse and throw ourselves into the next game. Even in victories we have to look at the defects, we think about the next game. We take this away with satisfaction because it was a difficult and important game, now let’s think of Manchester.”

On the team and tactics: “We have been working together for a year and a half, in the attacking phase we changed positions, we were less wide so as not to give points of reference. We played a good match from a technical point of view on a pitch that was unfortunately not perfect. We have identity, this is nice because the boys believe in what we have to do.”

On Romagnoli: “I have always maintained that the hierarchies are decided by the performances. Tomori had an immediate positive impact, he has important characteristics that were missing. Gabbia is also back, who gave us so much before the injury. I have three defensive starters, then I study the matches and try to field the most suitable for the single match. Romagnoli reacted well, as a professional, they must not lose respect and availability.”

Tags AC Milan Hellas Verona Milan Stefano Pioli