Vincenzo Montella’s hopes of finishing the season in a Europa League spot were boosted by the 3-1 win over Chievo last night, which the boss believes Milan ‘deserved’ despite not dominating.
Milan played on a Saturday night, before all the other teams with which they are fighting for a place in the Europa League, and so thanks to a 3-1 win against Chievo they find themselves, at least for a few hours, in 5th place with 50 points.
Carlos Bacca found the net first, in the 24′ minute, but Chievo responded through Jonathan de Guzmán in the 43′ after the Flying Donkeys were awarded a non-existent penalty by ref Fabio Maresca. The referee gave Milan a penalty in the last moment of the second half too, but Bacca sent it to the sky, and it was level at the break at Stadio San Siro.
Milan could’ve closed the game already in the first half but the players, Bacca in particular, were wasteful in front of goal. The Colombian, however, managed to finish the match with a brace as in the 70′ minute, a headed effort from Alessio Romagnoli found the striker who had an easy tap-in.
In the 82′ minute, a third penalty was given in the match, again to the red and black boys of Montella and it was substitute Gianluca Lapadula who scored from the spot to make it 3-1 at the end of the 90 minutes. The only negatives, perhaps, is the fact that Suso had to walk off the pitch in the first half as he could not continue and the many misses in front of the goal of goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.
“The game felt like a bit of an uphill struggle, but it was ultimately always under control and we could’ve gone into the half a goal up,” Montella told Premium Sport at the end of the encounter. “We didn’t dominate Chievo because they put us in difficulty but the victory is still deserved.
“Bacca broke the deadlock at the decisive moment. I liked the performance, we knew how to wait and strike at the right moment. We could’ve finished it off earlier. There was no space between the lines but we had prepared well… the long balls were planned. In the first half, we had some players out of position, including De Sciglio who’s used to playing a different position [he played as a right back].
“Bacca’s substitution? We forced the game a bit more and then in the last moments I preferred to enter another midfielder [Juraj Kucka], also to give some help to Deulofeu who did a lot. Romagnoli was playing even though he was one yellow away from suspension [he started alongside Cristian Zapata]? I don’t think of these things. If he was booked, then in Turin a different player would have played.
“Ocampos? He had a good impact and has real potential, but he just needs to improve in how he interprets situations. He relies a bit too heavily on his technique. He’s a player I’ve always liked, also when I was coaching Fiorentina. He has technical ability and has a sense of goal… he’s a modern attacker who can play in various roles. If he can be more consistent, he can be a player at a high level. Suso? He felt a bit stiff, I don’t think it was muscular, but we’ll see over the weekend.
“The standings? I have not looked at the table. It’s nice to play before the others, as we can spend our Sunday relaxing. In Turin [against Juventus] we have to play a great match. Inter [who face Cagliari on Sunday] are not the only antagonists and what interests me is finishing in the Europa League.
“To get into the UCL at this point, we’d need a Scudetto-style run of results. To get into the Europa League, we’d need a Champions League-style run. Everyone is running, but we look at ourselves. If Atalanta continue winning [they are one point above Milan with a game in hand], we’ll have to tip our hats to them, go to Bergamo and congratulate them, because they are having a sensational season.
“Juventus [the next match is on Friday evening at the Juventus stadium, kickoff is at 20:45 CET)? We are facing a side that is invincible in Turin, so we’ll need something extraordinary.”
In an interview with Sky, Montella added: “The failed ‘closing’? The club has always completely fulfilled the contracts, the salaries are all paid and I don’t feel any kind of discomfort. I’ve always been satisfied with every requirement and the situation does not trouble us.
“Bacca? He’s getting closer to the true Bacca. He’s definitely growing and beyond the goals and the missed penalty, he also created significant chances. This is the player that we know. Jose Sosa? He’s grown a lot, when we chose t take him we were a bit criticized. It’s hard to get a younger player with this personality without a big budget. He’s growing more and more and he’s a player who always manages to take a few risks. Ocampos? I followed him a lot… at Fiorentina when we sold Cuadrado the choice to replace him was between Ocampos and Salah. He must grow in his consistency.”
“I’m very happy, it’s a victory that came after a matured performance and we managed all the game-situations well,” Montella said in the post-match press conference. “We had to be more clinical in the second half and close the match. We were more dangerous than usual from set pieces and we did it against the strongest team of the league from this point of view.
“We missed many chances, but I am satisfied with the boys’ performance. I’m happy in particular for Bacca and I finally saw the player we’ve always admired. He created several chances in a way that we were not used to seeing. I’m glad for him and it’s a new beginning.
“Jose Sosa? He’s getting to know the role more and more and he has great personality. Pasalic? He’s having a good season although it’s been a few games in which he didn’t play from the start. I like to rely on all the players. The summer purchases? When you buy new layers there’s a natural phase of adaption. We wanted everything right away because we were not happy with the last few years.
“Suso? I’m not a doctor but I don’t think it’s anything serious. We’ll see how he is in the next days. Ocampos? He entered the match well. He’s a complete player and a modern attacker. He has the technical ability and a sense of sacrifice. He must grow in terms of his consistency.
“Inter? My desire is to reach the Europe League, if possible then with at least one point above them. The three points earned against Chievo are the same as the three possible points against Juventus.“