Vincenzo Montella told all the usual stories but in the end Milan lost their 5th Serie A match, 2-0 against Juventus.
Milan were hoping that Saturday’s match with Juventus, in a sold-out San Siro stadium, can be the turning point of the season, but it was just more of the same.
The Rossoneri started the match very well with a lot of enthusiasm but after 10 good minutes, Juventus settled into the match.
While Milan had more of the ball all throughout the match (53.6%), they seemed to lack ideas of what to do with it and Juve looked comfortable at the back. The Diavolo had just one or two actual good chances, the best of them arriving in the last moment of the second half when Nikola Kalinić had to put the ball past Gigi Buffon; but instead, the disappointing striker hit the crossbar from close range.
Gonzalo Higuaín showed Kalinić how a top striker does it and scored two excellent goals (23′, 64′) to give Juventus the three points. Milan almost never looked like a threat, were toothless, sluggish with their passes and just uninspired, as Suso and Çalhanoğlu were marked out of the game.
After this defeat, Milan now have the same number of L’s and W’s in Serie A this term. They have 6 points less than they did last season after the same number of matches and have failed to score in their last 3 three home league matches – their longest streak in Serie A since December 2007.
“It was a very balanced match, one we played on even terms with Juventus, but the difference was made by Higuain with two great goals,” Montella told Premium Sport. “As far as I am concerned, the team put in a good performance, we were just a little tired. We were balanced and had twice as many shots compared to Juve. We could’ve broken the deadlock earlier, but their strikers did better.
“Milan lost all of their big matches [against Lazio, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter and Juve]? We are a restructured squad and in the games against the big clubs, apart from 15 minutes with Lazio, we always played on level terms. This is scant consolation, but we must be more clinical in front of goal.
“The defense [Milan have conceded 16 goals]? On both Juventus goals, the defense was in position, but Higuain scored two phenomenal strikes. We must also recognize the talent of the opposition. The attack? We went close to the goal several times, but there are few Higuains out there and not everybody has someone like him. Higuain is a Champion, half a meter is enough for him.
“The pressure of San Siro? I maintain it was a good performance from my team. In this type of fixture, you also need to be accustomed to games at this level. We now have to react straight away and focus on winning in Athens on Thursday in the Europa League. I expect to find motivation from the players.”
Speaking to Sky, Montella said: “We prepared for an aggressive match, it was a balanced match as long as we had the strength. We were penalized by two great plays of a Champion [Higuain]. Juventus have more than one player at the highest level. The squad was not rewarded, we had the same [number of] opportunities as Juventus. We played an even match against an extremely strong side.
“I’m sorry, now we need to find the energies and absorb yet another defeat that came in the same manner as the others against the consolidated teams. Also on Saturday the team played the game that they had to do. It is a shame that we lost our energy and quality during the game.
“We have to think about being consistent. Everyone goes through difficult moments in time. Higuain’s goals? He was good, his intuition… we must say how good how opponents are. Buffon? He got better with time. The team? There are good players here, they will become very good.
“Juventus already have very good players, it’s all clear. Kessié and Biglia [who were disappointing again]? Kessié is 20, let’s not forget it, it’s his first experience in a big club. Biglia is suffering a bit from this situation of results, he’s a very sensitive guy. I believe in him, he has a big personality.”
In his post-match press conference at the San Siro press room, the coach said: “We had difficulty handling the match? I disagree, I think we played 15 exceptional minutes in which we deserved a goal and in the first half we created more than Juventus. The match was decided by a top player.
“Our negative numbers? I think the last 3 defeats here at San Siro weren’t fair. We must grow, but I see a team that knows how to be on the pitch. The spaces given to Higuain? In the first 70 minute we played a defensive game of a great level, giving very little to the opponents.
“Higuain scored a goal of an absolute Champion, he is one and he scored two goals out of nothing. Milan are lacking a top striker? Dzeko [against Milan] scored a goal via a deflection, let’s not forget. Players are destined to grow, ours are not accustomed to these matches, the players of Juventus have made the Champions League final. Top players of €100m want to play in the Champions League to win it [Aubameyang said he wanted to join Milan]. I’m happy with the mercato that we did. This situation does not help the team because the players are young and the jersey of Milan weights.
“If I’m envious of Juve for something other than Higuain? I don’t envy anything. They are an example and teams are built over time. They are experienced and are now introducing some young players, but they are built to win the CL. There was optimism in the summer because big achievements are possible if you approach them the right way, even if some incidents could’ve gone our way.
“We don’t score at San Siro? We went close against Juventus due to the dangerousness of the actions created. The same happened against Roma. Who are we racing with? Ourselves. We’re not looking at the standings. We are a team that can also have a sequence of wins.
“Biglia? I’m honestly, in general, not going to comment on individuals unless they score three goals… I think he can do more. He’s an extraordinary guy. I don’t know why but in the last period he has recently not looked calm. I am convinced he’ll become the added value we are looking for.”
Montella also talked with MilanTV after the final whistle of referee Paolo Valeri: “This is the game that has upset me the most. We played a good game, but we are being punished by details, this time Higuain’s sharpness. We did well to stop the other top players they have, but the difference is that our shot hit the crossbar and went out while theirs hit the post and went in.
“We stopped them from playing the type of game they wanted, although towards the end we dropped the intensity and lost a bit of confidence, it’s normal. Juventus defenders are very physical and experienced, that’s also why we seemed to lack have lost energies in the final minutes of the game.
“The lack of goals? We need to have the conviction, it’s a matter of centimeters. In two occasions tonight, Kalinić was just centimeters away from scoring. We need to keep calm and focused, we will get there. Had we scored first, the course of the match would have definitely been different.
“We had the right approach. I saw the boys convinced, especially in the first half. It’s not easy to play in front of 80,000 fans. We could have scored two goals tonight because we were dangerous up front. These five defeats, with the last three at San Siro don’t do us justice. We have to improve because when you play better than or as good as your opponents you have to win.
“The formation? We’ll continue like this. The team now has an identity, we’re only missing the results. Today and tomorrow we’ll be demoralized but on Monday we will raise our head and try to change this moment when everything is bad. This is also a moment of growth. Suso and Çalhanoğlu? Well, the opponents marked them well and gave more space to our less dangerous players. They intentionally focused on the two because they are those who feed our strikers.
“Abate was captain? It was a simple and clear choice. The club had asked me for a new captain like Bonucci and when he’s not there then the old hierarchies are restored.”