Vincenzo Montella thought Milan deserved to beat Cagliari, defended Niang (‘I will be a visionary, but I see him growing’) and said transfer target Gerard Deulofeu is ‘different from Suso’.
The Rossoneri started off 2017 on the right foot with a 1-0 win over Cagliari at Stadio San Siro on Sunday evening.
Milan had some moments of great football, but while the build-up was there, the finishing leg was often missing.
Late in the game Montella switched to a 4-2-4 system with M’Baye Niang, Carlos Bacca, Gianluca Lapadula and Suso all the pitch in an attempt to break the deadlock and in the 88′ minute his gamble worked as a Mattia De Sciglio cross found Lapadula who with his characteristic grit managed to set up Bacca for the goal. The Colombian returned to scoring for the first time since October and gave the Rossoneri 3 very important points.
“We’re averaging two points per match? We are pleased with the performance and with this first round although there is still a game to play [against Bologna, which was postponed due to the Supercoppa],” the Diavolo coach Montella told MilanTV at the end of the encounter. “On Sunday, we did some very good things even if we still have some things to improve and made some mistakes.
“It was important to win and we did. The first match after the break is always tricky. Many matches were resolved in the final minutes on this Matchday. The team controlled the game, we are satisfied because at times the team played with intelligence. We did well to move the ball around quickly, although we conceded some chances to Cagliari. The ‘always believe’ attitude? In the final minutes, we gave everything we had to win it and this is our reward. There’s still room for improvement.
“Lapadula and the electricity he transmits? He came on well, and he made the decisive assist for Bacca. I am happy for both. Bacca? There are players who are likeable also when they don’t score and others like him who are only likeable when they score; fortunately, he often scores goals.
“Carlos proved to be a top-class striker, because he managed to be in the right place at the right time in not a great period for him. His numbers speak for themselves. He managed to score a decisive goal and it’s a great satisfaction. Niang? I will be a visionary, but I see Niang growing.
“Niang had a great game especially from a defensive point of view. I would like him to be less criticized because he is very important for us. He has quality and he can grow so much. Romagnoli and Paletta? They are doing well, both starting the play and defensively.
“The entire defense feels more confident with them and this makes the difference. The final free kick and the discussion between Suso and Lapadula on who will take the ball? It won’t happen again, next time there will only be one on the ball [smiles]. Gerard Deulofeu [who Milan are trying to sign from Everton]? He has different characteristics to those of Suso, he can play on either flank.
“Handling the pressure in a team of so many young players? The energy is concentrated only on think about our game, without thinking about those who play before or after us. The next matches? Playing both Thursday and Monday against Torino is not going to be easy. We’ll have to pace ourselves for this double meeting. We want to do well also in the Coppa Italia and this is why we’ll need our fans.”
Speaking to Sky Italia, Montella said: “We started the game well and controlled it with a lot of possession, but couldn’t make many vertical passes because Cagliari were all sat back and wouldn’t allow us the spaces. Then we got stretched out a little and Cagliari were able to test us with a few counter-attacks. In the second half, we lost some intensity, then ran a few risks at the end when we moved to 4-2-4, but I am satisfied with this victory and how we achieved it.
“The foundations are there, we just need to get more shots on target and attack the opposition line a bit more in future. The impact of the success in the Supercoppa? The players trained very well and maintained their belief. I was trying to keep us concentrated on the future and not the past.
“Bacca? He has always been relaxed and I’m happy that he got the goal. I used to be a striker, so I know how important a goal is. Now I am waiting for Niang to get a goal, he is improving mentally.”
“What counts is the three points and I think they are well-deserved,” Montella said in the presser. “The goal is important for Bacca and he had the great help of Lapadula. Carlos has demonstrated that he has the clarity and technique to score in the 90th minute which means he’s a player of substance.
“Bacca played a good game, he’s not flashy and he catches the eye only when he scores, not when he makes his movements. He scored a goal of a great striker. Subbing out Bonaventura? It was a choice I made, he’s one of the most used players in my reign and occasionally he’s replaced.
“Ignazio Abate [who was replaced in the 27′ minute]? He took a knock and I don’t know if he’ll recover for Thursday [for the Coppa Italia match against Torino]. He played 30 minutes in a high level. Who will be the goalkeeper in the Coppa? I have decided on that but I’ll keep it to myself.
“Objectives? The first one was the Supercoppa, the second is to return to Europe and the third is the Coppa Italia. We have several objectives. We are having important consistency in terms of our performances and points. There is belief we can do a lot as it’s a team with so many young players.
“A regista is missing? We’ll try to do what we can in this mercato. We are attentive to the market with regard to our possibilities. If the conditions are right, then we’ll be pleased [to sign someone].”