AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli hailed his side for taking the ‘umpteenth positive step’ as they beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 at San Siro tonight.
It had been nine years since Milan last won at home in the Champions League, with that victory being back in September 2013 against Celtic, but the wait was ended thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud, Alexis Saelemaekers and Tommaso Pobega.
Giroud’s came from the penalty spot just before the break and the Belgian’s was a header straight after the interval, but the danger man for Zagreb – Orsic – halved their deficit. Pobega finished in off the crossbar to get his first goal for the club and put the game beyond doubt, though.
Pioli was interviewed by Sky at the end of the game against Dinamo Zagreb as he reflected on the performance and the magnitude of the three points, with his comments transcribed by MilanNews.
It had been 9 years since Milan last won at home in the Champions League…
“It’s the umpteenth positive step. I told the players that for the quality they have they weren’t yet to win a Champions League game at home. My players and the fans deserved it. I think we can play even better, make a more precise game and score even more goals: but we are playing a lot and something can be conceded.”
Is the level of the Champions League high compared to Serie A?
“I still think that there is not so much difference, the performances depend on us both in Italy and in the Champions League. Our level will have to rise, but if we play with our concepts at a high level we can win in the league but also in the Champions: we must not think that in the Champions League we need something exceptional to win. Of course, the level is very high, but it will also be so on Sunday against Napoli in the league.”
How did you judge Rafael Leao’s performance tonight?
“We had prepared some positions putting Brahim and Tonali between the lines, isolating Rafa is a good solution. That it goes inside is fine, that you continue to do it with this quality. I know his qualities so I always expect a lot.”
Does this team still have margins to improve?
“Yes, absolutely. Today’s game is a good testimony: we could manage better, score a few goals and absolutely not concede the goal. Dreaming is beautiful, the parallelism is ‘dreaming at night and working during the day to be able to achieve our dreams’.”
Can you be the surprise team of the competition?
“Of course it becomes very difficult, this has been a very challenging period and the next will be even more so, from the beginning of October until November 13th. This is why I say that we have to grow, when you can’t go to a thousand then you have to be good at managing.”
How do you replace Leao in the game against Napoli?
“Clearly we will not have the same characteristics, we do not have a real striker but we will try to have different solutions and positions. We will try to play a great match against a great opponent.”