Vincenzo Montella stayed calm despite the last-second controversy at the Juventus Stadium which left the Milan fans and players fuming at the referee: “It’s too bad but we have to wait for next year in order to win here.”
Milan were extremely close to becoming the first team in Serie A this season to get a point against Juventus away from home, but they were practically robbed in the 97th minute when referee Davide Massa awarded the Bianconeri a non-existent penalty, which was scored by Paulo Dybala to make it 2-1 in the final whistle.
Juve were better than Milan in the first half and got ahead in the 30′ minute through Mehdi Benatia. The Rossoneri got back in the game right before half time as Gerard Deulofeu found Carlos Bacca in the box and the Colombian made it level (from an offside position, as the replays showed, but it was perhaps too close to call in real time). The striker had to be replaced in the 54′ minute due to an injury and wasn’t part of the Milan side that despite missing their top scorer, looked better in the second half; While Milan did rely on the absolute brilliance of Gigio Donnarumma in the Diavolo goal, they also came close on several occasions to beat Gianluigi Buffon and win the match.
It was all going towards a draw but then in extra time Jose Sosa was sent off for a second yellow, ‘allowing’ the match to be played past the 4 minutes added by the referee. In the very last moment, Massa pointed toward the white spot after Stephan Lichtsteiner’s ball ‘hit’ Mattia De Sciglio’s arm. It was an incredibly controversial call that sent Milan to the locker room furious, with fans in Italy and around the world feeling like they undeservedly lost because of the ref, against Juve of all teams.
“After the game, I asked for calmness,” coach Vincenzo Montella told Premium Sport after the match. “Everyone has their interpretation and I want to apologize for the situation at the end, as that is unforgivable but there was a lot of nervousness. It wasn’t Daniele Doveri [the penalty area referee] who gave the penalty, [referee] Davide Massa told me he took the responsibility of giving the penalty.
“I am told Massa was far away and couldn’t have seen it. I saw it with calmness. Massa decided to give it, Doveri said he didn’t tip anything. I prefer not to talk about referees, even if on days like this it becomes difficult! Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s pointless. We have to focus, stay calm and accept that referees do make mistakes. We can only hope that the errors go in our favor…
“We need to send a message of calmness to those who watch from home. Juventus deserved a penalty when Zapata fouled Dybala? I don’t want to talk about referees. The officials always told us there is no such thing as compensation and therefore I don’t even want to see the Zapata incident, because it’s irrelevant. One also has to say there is a big difference between a penalty 10 minutes in and one at the 95th minute. What I want to do is talk about football and keep everything calm.
“The match itself? We had the chances to take the lead and a victory in an arena like this would’ve opened up a very different scenario for us. Nonetheless, the performance boosts our confidence and our faith in ourselves. We are still in the running for the Europa League.
“Ocampos as a main striker? Bacca scored a goal and went off because he was not 100 per cent fit, but Ocampos can play in that role and be a valuable extra alternative. In order to leave here unbeaten, you also need a bit of luck and Gigio Donnarumma had that on a couple of occasions.
“In a few moments, I got the feeling we could win this, as Juve were opening up and we were very dangerous on the counter, but we didn’t take our chances. We could be here talking about a very different game, but never mind. That’s football. Why are we so far behind? Because Juve always win and we don’t. Because they have a very, very big squad and the kind of mentality that comes with being accustomed to winning. We are working on it and hope to grow.”
Speaking to RAI Italia, Montella said: “The penalty? From the bench I didn’t see anything. I’m sorry and I apologize in the name of the team for the tension and the nervousness. I’m sorry about that because in the locker room there was someone with teams, but the boys must stay strong.
“Disappointed by the referees? I would like to exchange two more words with the referee and know what his thoughts were, but it seems to me that everyone must stay in place. It would have been more appropriate if Doveri gave it and not Massa who was 10 meters away from the action.”
“I’m sorry for dropping the point because I believe that in the end it will be a single point that decides the race for Europe, but I hope it will be true for others and not us,” he said in his MilanTV interview. “I’m sorry for the boys because we could have won, I’m sorry for the incidents but this should give us strength and belief that we are a team. If we stay this compact, we’ll enter Europe for sure.
“We played a good game and it gives us pride because we put them in trouble and almost played on par with Juventus. The next game? I’m sorry for the absences but I’m not worried. I will field a competitive team against Genoa [the match is next Saturday at 20:45 CET at Stadio San Siro].”
In the post-match press conference at the J Stadium, Montella said: “We started the match well but our superiority was short-lived. Juventus went ahead deservedly but we never disunited. I liked the interpretation of the match. In the second half I saw a great match and momentum was on our side.
“Juventus then forced us to stay down and then it was over. I’m sorry for the boys because a point will be decisive for the Europe race. The referee’s decisions? I don’t give judgments and I didn’t see anything from the bench, but yes from the television. I calmly asked for clarification after the match with regards to the dynamics of the action and the distance of the referees, and they told me who called it. You need to understand the dynamics of the game, you can make a mistake and you may think that there was a penalty in the first half to Juventus but it’s different than a penalty in 95′ minute. If it was up to me, I would try to talk at the end of the match with the referees with the other coach, it would be nice to understand the referees without the need to talk about it outside.
“If Juventus won, then it means that they earned it. The game was balanced in the second half and nobody would say it’s a scandal if it was a draw or if we got the advantage. I don’t pretend to have controlled the game here in Turin but I think Milan deserved the draw.
“Ocampos? He did very well, especially when we were forced to stay low because he can go 40-50 meters on foot. Lapadula would’ve been more helpful if we were a bit higher up the pitch. Deulofeu & Ocampos can play on both sides and can switch. Ocampos did well, especially when we were low.
“Honda? He took a blow on Wednesday and didn’t train on Thursday [he wasn’t in the squad]. Kucka? He was fine but Pasalic was the right player. Romagnoli didn’t play as a left back but instead as a left center back like he did with the national team. Sosa also played a great game. Mati? He’s fine, he’s been training with continuity for a month and I hope that he doesn’t get called-up by the NT.”
“We put every ounce of energy on the field. Juventus took the lead deservedly but we rebalanced the game,” the former Fiorentina and Sampdoria boss said to Sky Italia after the match. “In the second half the match was more balanced and then each side has its defense. It’s a shame than in some counters we made the wrong choices… and then the final moments happened.
“The penalty? I asked Doveri serenely who pointed for a penalty but he didn’t respond. Massa said that he was the one who gave it but he had three players in front of him. Bacca’s substitution? Carlos asked for a replacement. Lapadula in the 30-40 meters away from goal zone has more difficulty that Deulofeu and Ocampos. I’m sorry for Gianluca but that’s what I interpreted.
“I’m proud to see that we are a team. Maybe with a bit more luck we could’ve won. I’m proud of this spirit. It’s too bad but we have to wait for next year in order to win here…”