Vincenzo Montella is happy with how his men played against Inter – despite the 3-2 defeat, admits he is not convinced there was a penalty in the 90′ minute and insists this squad can’t play 4-3-3.
4 defeats out of 8 matches, 12 points out of 24 – four points less than they had last season. This is the record of the new Milan at the beginning of the Serie A season.
The Rossoneri can’t possibly be any more midtable than that as after last night’s Derby della Madonnina, they sit in 10th place, 12 points behind the leaders Napoli and 12 points ahead of the rock-bottom Benevento.
On Sunday at Stadio San Siro, Milan could’ve turned their season around. But failed, again. Mauro Icardi took absolute full advantage of the Diavolo’s defensive incompetence and netted a hat-trick (28′, 63′, 90′ pk) to win the game for the Nerazzurri and put them in second place in Serie A.
Milan risked a lot more in the second half, subbing out the disappointing Franck Kessié for Patrick Cutrone on half time and then putting on Manuel Locatelli for Alessio Romagnoli in the 78′ minute. The subs of Montella did the trick, albeit not entirely, as while his side played very well in attack, with Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura both scoring (56′, 80′) and finally free to play on the wing, they conceded in the last moment after Ricardo Rodriguez gave away a very avoidable penalty.
It’s three Serie A defeats in a row for Milan and while there are 30 more matches to play this year, it seems that the dream of making it back to the Champions League will not become a reality.
“The penalty? I don’t want to talk about it. D’Ambrosio was very smart… Losing a game like that at the 90′ minute for an incident like that, I prefer not to see it again,” Montella said in an interview with Premium Sport after the final whistle of Paolo Tagliavento in a sold-out Stadio San Siro.
“I saw a great reaction in the second half, we created 7-8 scoring chances. I am really proud, as we played with Milan soul, we played the way I like. It’s a shame we didn’t get points from it, but the principles of football are on the right track and we can feel optimistic after this.
“I see the glass half-full and the desire to continue this technical project. In the first half we were too constrained, in the second half we were mentally unblocked. Inter hit the bar in the first half and scored with a goal that could’ve been stopped. They were clinical, far more than us.
“But I’m happy with the performance and I urge the players to use this spirit in future, because if we play like this, we won’t lose again. Inter were lethal on the counter, which is their characteristic. We could’ve made a lot more of the spaces in the first half and we had worked on these situations.
“Unfortunately, we were unlucky on the goals. I think the match changed because we pulled out the pride and determination to prove ourselves. It’s hard to introduce a new project with so many new players, especially when you don’t get as much time to work together in training.
“Biglia? He was certainly stained by the incident from which the second goal was born [he lost possession and then Inter scored] but overall, he gave order, blocked an Inter player and allowed the defensive players to play the ball. He did his game in order and was unfortunate in that episode.
“The 4-3-3 formation is better than the 3-5-2 formation? We play every three days and we have no substitutions to play with 4-3-3 because we only have Suso and Bonaventura as wingers. On Sunday with the 3-5-2 we created a lot against a great Inter. We didn’t change the system for Bonucci.
“When things go well, they fill you with compliments, when they go wrong, there are less people [supporting you]. If 4th place remains our goal? Looking at the table right now, everything might seem out of reach, but the season is very long and we can make up ground.
“This squad has quality, despite what some might say, and I thought even a draw would’ve been harsh on us considering all the chances created. I believe a top four finish is absolutely possible.”
Speaking to RAI, Montella said: “I go home bitter and disappointed but convinced that we played a great game. The first half was balanced, they were good, clinical and lucky in the end, but my team must carry on this union, conviction and decision-making. We created more than the opponents.
“But we go defeated with bitterness. I don’t look at the standings, in the last two games we deserved more. I don’t want to comment on the penalty, I’m not a referee. We’ve always said that the amount of push or a foul determines the penalty, there are assessments to be made. I only hope to be able to win an important game in the same manner even if I would then be sorry for my colleague.
“We pay too much for our errors, we gave away very little and they optimized it to 90%. When the opponents are good it needs to be said, but we need to improve. We were not clinical but we will get there. It’d be hard to lose more games by playing like we did on Sunday.
“The numbers don’t lie but when there is a change, there’s a path that can be accelerated with a pinch of lick which we don’t have. To date, I’m happy that the team plays on the level of the opponents and loses, even if I would prefer to win. We played a bit better in terms of opportunities created with respect to Inter. Every change requires time to achieve.”
In his MilanTV interview, the boss stated: “We are disappointed with the result, it’s surely the biggest regret. The boys played with heart and soul and I really like this. We created many chances but we should have been more clinical as Inter in fact were. I am sure that with performances like this we won’t lose many games. I saw the desire to bounce back in the boys’ eyes and to put in the Milan spirit, but it was not enough. This is football, it often sends you home with considerable bitterness, but we don’t have time for that. Now we have to concentrate on our next game on Thursday.
“Suso? The solution we adopted in the second half is something that we can work on [the Spaniard played as one of the five midfielders]. He did well also in midfield and so did Bonaventura. They had a great performance, but it wasn’t enough. They are both great players and really important for us.
“The goals conceded? We shouldn’t be conceding these many goals, but Inter scored three goals with three chances. The team doesn’t concede many opportunities to our opponents, but as soon as we make a mistake we somehow always get punished. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Montella also held a press conference at the end of this ‘away’ match: “There is bitterness about how the defeat arrived, about the result and the place in the standings. Playing in this way, you can’t lose many matches. We played a great second half, in the first half it was more tactical.
“The difference between the first and second half [Milan looked stuck in the first half but very lively in the second]? We cannot always play in the same way, only Napoli have this kind of continuity. Inter have the quality of the last movement, Icardi’s goal was crazy and of impressive technical skill. When a team wins, they’re always better and Inter proved to be clinical on the pitch.
“Suso and Jack? They scored a goal, it looked like my evening but in the end it wasn’t. The standings? We have the strength and conviction to go up again. The last-minute penalty? I don’t want to talk about the penalty, I accept the referee’s mistake if it was a mistake. For a player to go down in a certain way, he must be touched in a certain way. I believe that D’Ambrosio was very good there.
“I was expecting these difficulties, perhaps playing less well and having a few more points. It means that we have to work hard even more,” added Montella, who arrived at Milan from Samp in 2016.
Talking to Sky Italia, the Diavolo coach said: “The penalty? D’Ambrosio did very well, but I never speak of referees. Danilo was smart, he fell before he was touched. It bothers me to lose in the 90′ minute but you can’t say that it was a clear penalty, he wasn’t pulled down.
“I’m sorry to lose after a second half comeback. I’m sorry for the game, for this delicate moment, the standings. This is football and I accept it. I’m happy with the performance of the boys despite the defeat. In the first half we were timid, but I didn’t see an exciting Inter either. The team had order in the first half, especially in the first 30 minutes. Playing like we did in the second half is risky.
“We don’t like the standings but I’m not looking at it. Suso in midfield? It wasn’t a gamble, it’s a solution I’ve had in a while and in some situations you can dare. The three-man defense? The only one who played in that position [before] is Bonucci. We are working, we will also improve on that.
“All in all, I don’t think the team did badly on Sunday. If we changed the formation due to Bonucci? No. We don’t have the alternatives to Suso and Bonaventura in a 4-3-3. With the transfer of Niang we have no alternatives other the Borini [who had another excellent showing as a wingback].
“The club? I’ve found up until now an exceptional club that is supportive of me. I’m convinced that I can carry on the project, I know the risks of the trade. They have always behaved like great directors and have supported me [the club has no intention of sacking Montella].”
The season barely started and fourth place is already 7 points away from Milan, who could perhaps put their eggs in the Europa League basket. On Thursday they host AEK Athens at 21:05 CET.