Vincenzo Montella sees the glass as ‘half-full’ after the 3-2 win over Rijeka and explained his hug with Bonucci.
Another victory, but more importantly, another disappointing performance from Milan as last night they squeezed a 3-2 win over Rijeka thanks a last-minute goal.
Montella once again started with 3-5-2, playing Bonucci from the first minute for the 10th consecutive time and Kessié for the 7th consecutive time, with André Silva and Patrick Cutrone playing up front.
Fabio Borini played as a left wingback and after 14 minutes, he found Silva. The 21-year-old Portuguese made an excellent solo-run and buried the ball at the back of the net to give Milan the lead.
Rijeka had several chances that a better side would’ve probably scored, but it was again Milan who scored as in the 53′ minute, Mateo Musacchio netted from close-range, thanks a lucky assist from Bonucci.
Milan were poor all throughout the match but completely lost their plot in the last 10 minutes before stoppage time: Bonucci made a terrible error in the 84′ minute, allowing substitute Boadu Maxwell Acosty to beat Gigio Donnarumma. Five minutes later, Alessio Romagnoli made a silly foul in the penalty box and Josip Elez equalized and shocked the 23,917 fans that came to San Siro last night.
But then came the 94′ minute: Borini spotted Cutrone’s excellent movement and delivered a fantastic ball to the 19-year-old, who managed to get his touch and beat goalkeeper Simon Sluga. Milan were saved by the youngster and are now alone at the top of their Europa League group with 6 points.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. In addition to the result, it’s an important lesson for the boys, but we gladly take home these three points,” Montella said in the post-match presser. “We were in control for almost the whole game despite not being great in the technical aspect, and suddenly: blackout.
“Anyone can give their own explanation on this. I think this victory is much more important than a 2-0. I have seen positive things and some others we still need to work on. We have won 10 games out of 12, with a team who is made up of many new players. The hug with Bonucci after the 3-2? I hugged him because he is the captain of this team. We were in control of the game at some point.
“We should have kept the ball more and lower the tempo to lose fewer energies. The team was not calm [Milan constantly lost balls due to poor passing]? I noticed it too. I asked them to play the match with anger, but also with joy and fun. The goal of 2-1 scared us a bit and then it went like it did.
“Resting Kessié? Now there’s the match against Roma. He will take a breather with his national team since he will be playing only one game. Bonaventura? He has to improve from a physical standpoint but on Thursday he was better than on other occasions. What’s missing with Bonucci and Romagnoli? We have to improve as a department. The many goals conceded come from individual errors.
“Some fans whistled? The fans have all the right to show their appreciation or displeasure. My intention was to save physical energy in view of Sunday. If I expect the headlines to be on Cutrone or on my future? I don’t ask this question… I focus more on preparing for the match.
“The future? It was the dream of a lifetime to coach a glorious team. I think we can achieve the results we have targeted so I feel calm. I am positive and I feel the support of everyone at the club. When I started being a coach, some questions were raised, including if I’d be able to endure the criticism and ‘advice’ by the millions of coaches. I am not troubled by what are the risks of my job.
“If I’m ready to live with Ancelotti’s shadow [Carletto was fired from Bayern yesterday]? I hold him in great esteem. I went to follow his training sessions when I started this job and has always thought of me as a brother. If he wants to come here, he can be my assistant or maybe I can be his [smiles]…”
Speaking to Sky, Montella, who arrived at Milan from Sampdoria in the summer of 2016, said: “We’ve got to grow in the way we handle games., it’s quite evident. We climbed a step which was unthinkable before the match, winning a hard-fought game. This was a valuable learning experience and we bring home the knowledge that you have to control a match at the 70th minute. I want to underline the spirit of the team, even with no energy left, that brought the victory home. It’s a great result, maybe not so much in terms of the score line, but it is a great step forward for the team.
“The last-minute goal? There was indescribable joy to see the team play with this energy and determination in the final minute. I was a little more fired up with Bonucci, as he is the captain and ought to set the example on how to control a leading situation, but it was an affectionate telling off.
“The match? We have to grow in the defensive phase, automatisms. We suffered a bit at the start and then the team tried to play the match, as we have perhaps struggled a little in terms of temperament under the weight of expectations. Rijeka played a consistently aggressive match and we should’ve created more chances when we were giving the balls to the attackers, especially in the first half.
“The importance of success? There are negative and positive elements that come out from game to game. We want the growth to last for the entire 95 minutes, that isn’t happening yet, so I am here to work and improve the team. We go home with far more experience and spirit than if we had won comfortably. If Donnarumma had saved the penalty [he jumped to the right side], we wouldn’t have been as happy, because we saw the desire and energy to turn things around and react to setbacks.
“The posture of the defenders? We work on body posture regardless of the defenders. If the glass is half empty or half full? Half-full, as we learned some valuable lessons and, of course, we won. Milan-Roma? This year we’ve won all the San Siro matches, I think it can be of value, or at least I hope so.”
This win over Rijeka certainly did not help to take the pressure off Montella and nothing but three points against Roma would do it. Totti was scouting Milan last night, and he went home happy.