Arrigo Sacchi believes that AC Milan had an encouraging performance against Napoli, but it will count for nothing because of a failure to take chances.
All three goals came in the second half as Napoli got their noses in front via a penalty that was awarded after a VAR review, with Matteo Politano scoring. Olivier Giroud popped up with another big goal to set up a grandstand finish with an equaliser, and the frantic pace continued.
However, it was Giovanni Simeone who ended up getting the winning goal for the Partenopei in the final 20 minutes of the game with a deft header, and the result means Luciano Spalletti’s men move three points ahead along with Atalanta.
Sacchi spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport in his usual weekly column to digest the game at San Siro, starting with his general feelings after what was a match played at a very high intensity throughout.
“It’s a pity that the referee whistled the end. I would have been in front of the television for hours. All the players of the two teams and also the referee were very good. He enforced, but he always let him play,” he said.
“To me it seemed like a Premier League-style match: there are few games of this level in Italy and in a very delicate period for our football it is important to have these.”
Can the result be called fair?
“No, I’ll say it right away. Probably even a draw would have been harsh on Milan, for how they dominated the pitch and for the opportunities created. But it should be added that Napoli not only did not steal anything, but also proved to be alive. There was no tacticism on either side: in a country where tacticism exists everywhere, creating only damage, credit is due.”
In the first half the Rossoneri attacked their opponents and also dominated, but they weren’t clinical in the last twenty metres…
“Very good at pressing, at stealing the ball. Napoli had a cautious attitude at the beginning. But Pioli’s boys lacked in finishing. It should also be noted that Meret made two beautiful saves, but if he dominates so much it must be produce more.”
In the second half, Napoli changed their strategy and put their heads out…
“They had already started at the end of the first half, then they took courage and always tried to overturn the game. This Kvaratskhelia is always dangerous: the defenders are forced to always play to the limit when they face him. At San Siro he got Kjaer booked, and Calabria, who were then forced to come off, and that resulted in the penalty.”
The key to such a spectacular match?
“The pace. A frenzied pace especially in the second half. He attacked Milan and Napoli responded immediately. We must congratulate Pioli and Spalletti: their teams believe in what they do and this is the merit of those who lead them.”
Milan’s reaction after Politano’s penalty was vehement, a great team reaction. What do you think?
“They immediately pushed on the accelerator, Brahim Diaz gave a good jolt and then Theo Hernandez is really a phenomenon. The action of Giroud’s equaliser was wonderful.”
Was there something you didn’t like about Milan?
“I liked everything and Pioli must be satisfied with this performance of his team. The only thing out of tune is the result, but a great team has the resources to react. Here, analysing the performances of the individuals, perhaps I expected from De Ketelaere something more. And even Saelemaekers was not at his usual levels. But the rest worked. In defence they were good, in midfield they let the ball go round and Giroud, up front, perhaps played his best game.”
The action that led to Simeone’s decisive goal was also splendid…
“Wonderful? Better. He protects the ball, defends it, passes it to Mario Rui and goes to attack space while his teammate crosses it right on his head. Perfect.”
On the occasion, however, did the Milan defence seem a bit static?
“In those situations it is difficult to intervene. Simeone took Tomori’s time and did something extraordinary.”
And, as evidence that the match was always on the edge, Milan came close to a draw until the end…
“What a crossbar, Kalulu’s! He had made eighty metres of field after stopping an opponent close to his area, and then he made a mistake by a matter of centimetres. But Milan have shown that they are always there.”