Gennaro Gattuso said the 4-0 score-line in the Coppa Italia final was a lying one and claimed the experience of Juve made the difference (‘we play with many young players, in the end we paid for it’).
Milan were dreaming of securing a place in the Europa League and lifting a major trophy by beating Juventus in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday evening.
But reality came and slapped the Rossoneri across the face. Milan did well in the first half and were on par with Juve, but in the second half, they absolutely collapsed.
In the span of 8 minutes, the game ended: Medhi Benatia scored the first of the Bianconeri in the 56′ minute and then in the 60′ minute, Douglas Costa’s shot from outside the box somehow beat Gianluigi Donnarumma. The young goalkeeper made another unbelievable mistake in the 64′ minute, with Benatia getting another goal. In the 76′ minute, Nikola Kalinić finally got on the scoresheet, but he scored to the wrong net, giving Juventus their 4-0 win and fourth consecutive Coppa Italia.
“Football is like that. The result does not reflect the performance, but when you make mistakes you pay,” Gattuso told Rai right after the final whistle. “For 56 minutes, we did what we had to and in the first half Juve never troubled us other than a Mandžukić header and we had two shots on goal.
“We have to accept it and realize we made our own errors and must accept them. Now we must look ahead. We committed some sins of youth. I too am a young coach [Gattuso is 40-year-old], I take all the responsibility, maybe there was too much pressure. I am learning, I make mistakes and have to figure out where we have gone wrong to improve. We shouldn’t look at the 4-0 result, but rather how we lost it and what we can do to improve. Not everything should be thrown away.
“I think it hurts more that we took 40,000 fans here and gave them a result like this. It’s a burning defeat. We’ll now have two games against sides who are in better mental shape than us and must try to get into the Europa League with better performances than this.”
The former Diavolo midfielder spoke to Rai again afterwards: “Conceding four goals in the final hurts, mistakes are part of the game but for 55-60 minutes we did what we had to do, the value of the two teams is different, the result is a lying one, but Juventus have something more.
“The performance? In the first half we had the more dangerous actions, in the first 10 minutes of the second half we were masters of the field, but football is made of episodes and Juventus have great quality. We prepared well for the game, we kept D. Costa in check and I didn’t see a team in trouble.
“Donnarumma? For my part there will be great protection. They have been errors, but we are not here to point the finger at Gigio. Everyone should take up responsibility, we didn’t lose because of Donnarumma. Reina [who is widely expected to join Milan as a free agent this summer]? At this moment Donnarumma is the Milan goalkeeper, the rest is down to the club. I am the coach, all I do is train the players who are put at my disposal. As far as I am concerned, Donnarumma is one of the most important goalkeepers in the world. It’s up to the club to decide what to do next.
“Europa League [Milan are currently in 6th place but could potentially finish 8th in the standings]? It burns in the head, in the heart and in the stomach. Now we play for everything in the last two weeks, we can’t throw it all away. We have to react and go to battle in these 180 minutes that remain.
“The shortcomings of Milan? There is no lack of a striker, but there are certain characteristics and experiences that cannot be bought at the supermarket, but instead are built with these defeats. We have to continue on this road and go in search of skilled people, that are an example inside the dressing room both in football aspects and in human aspects.”
Gattuso also held a presser: “In the first half it was an open game, we had the biggest opportunity, it was a well-played match and the 4-0 is a lying result. Even after the four goals we went in search of a goal, I cannot criticize anything about my guys, experience is not bought at the supermarket.
“We play with many young players and in the end, we paid for it. It’s part of the path that the team has to do. We didn’t lose because of Donnarumma. The end of the season? I have to do a lot of work on the players now, we have to look each other in the face and now for 180 minutes we don’t have to throw the good stuff away. We have to do the maximum against Atalanta who are well physically and with Fiorentina who play great football. This defeat burns me and the thousands of fans.
“The second half? At the end of the first I entered the field to calm the spirits and avoid yellow cards [Milan protested against referee Antonio Damato], but if we lost then it’s not the fault of the referee, we need to know how to play these games and adrenaline can often make bad jokes.
“Montella? After conceding four goals you ask me questions about Montella? It’s a team that needs to improve, we need to go and get 4 players who have mentality. To complete this squad, we need this type of players, but we have quality guys. Donnarumma? I can’t give myself an explanation for the mistakes, but we all lost together, we didn’t lose because of Gigio’s mistakes.
“I feel in discussion every day, I am being judged for what I do, I have to do my best every day. Europa League? There is concern that this negative result can affect us mentally. We must react immediately.”
Speaking to MilanTV, Rino said: “In the first minutes of the second half we still kept our composure, but then we made a mistake, we conceded a goal, then we made more mistakes and it happens, it’s part of the game. However, the team did what they had to do.
“The full-time score does not tell the whole story because if you think about the first half we created a clear-cut opportunity through Cutrone, whereas they didn’t have many chances: Mandžukić’s header and a shot by Dybala’s but I can’t think of other opportunities.
“We played a good match, but mistakes punished us and as I said, it’s part of the game. Juventus? This isn’t new. They always give you the feeling that they can knock you out at any time, because of the type of players they have, because of their mentality. It’s not a coincidence they have been winning all these years. There is a still a long way to go, we still have to work so much to be at their level.
“I’m convinced we are on the right path. We have such a young squad, I’m not making up their ages, they were born in ‘98, ‘97, ‘93, ’94. As I always say, you can’t buy experience on the market, experience is something you build through this type of games, through hard lessons, by performing well.
“The team framework is there, it’s been so long since we had such a young squad with so many young players who are our starters. They are capable of playing quality football and even on Wednesday we saw it when we had possession of the ball and we were passing it efficiently to each other.
“However, I repeat, we have the basis to start building something important and you need time. We will not be signing so many players every summer, instead, we need to trust these boys and continue to improve because they have the quality and a great mentality.
“The last two games? We will play against two tough sides. On one hand, there is Atalanta [on Sunday away from home at 18:00 CET] who always make it difficult for us because of our local rivalry. Then there is Fiorentina [on May 20 at San Siro] who have obtained great results in the last years, so it won’t be easy. Even if we had a tough start to the season and had to wait a lot to finally get to winning ways, we managed to bounce back and just because we lost, we can’t afford to give up.
“It is a burning defeat, it burns because we lost, it burns because we conceded four goals, because of the 25 to 30 thousand fans that came to support us and also for those who support Milan all around the world. Yet, we need to look forward, face our problems and find the way to solve them.
“After we conceded the fourth goal, I was afraid we would lose 7 or 8 to 0 because when you face such a strong team this is what happens. However, the boys kept trying and created three to four scoring chances… We played the match we wanted but we were unlucky at some points.
“We made mistakes but as I said, it’s part of the game. We really wanted to win it, the players, me, my staff, the fans. It was not a great night for anyone supporting Milan. Yet, we need to look ahead and strengthen our sense of belonging, be always hungry and become great again.”
Last night was supposed to be a celebration, but instead was a nightmare. Milan will have to pick themselves up and finish the season in 6th place to salvage anything from a bad campaign.