Vincenzo Montella, as always, told the press that Milan did well despite losing for the 6th time this season in 13 games.
Milan visited the San Paolo last night with hope that they would finally be able to get a point against one of the Top 6 sides.
But hopes and dreams are one thing and reality is another: the team of Vincenzo Montella is simply not in the level of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli, who despite not having a particularly good match, still managed to beat the Diavolo 2-1.
In the 32′ minute, Alessio Romagnoli kept Lorenzo Insigne onside and the pacey Italian winger showed why he could’ve made the difference for Italy against Sweden with a good goal. In the 72′ minute, Dries Mertens sent a great ball to an onside Piotr Zieliński and three minutes after coming on, the 23-year-old Polish midfielder beat Gigio Donnarumma.
Milan scored a consolation goal in the 91′ minute with a fantastic Romagnoli shot from outside the box. But that goal was too little too late from the Rossoneri, who once again go home without points.
As written by @OptaPaolo on Twitter, Milan became the second team in the league to have had no touches in the opposition box in the first half this season (after Benevento, who did so against Napoli and Juventus). They did a bit better in the second half and enjoyed a lot of possession, but the story of this side is that it seems to have absolutely no idea how to score a goal unless one of the players does something on his own (usually Suso, who was forced out of the pitch before the HT whistle).
“I keep the performance, as this team showed great character and our passing moves have been steadily improving too. When you lose badly, it’s upsetting, and when you lose and deserved more, then that’s upsetting too,” Montella told Premium Sport, perhaps trying to convince those who didn’t watch the game. “We have to improve in the last 20 meters, but I saw a present Milan.
“We weren’t incisive enough in the final third, but we caused Napoli a lot of problems and I am happy with the performance, proportional to the anger I feel at losing when playing so well. We lost to all the teams that are ahead of us? Our last two defeats were against Juventus and Napoli, so of course they are ahead of us, but despite the results, we were in the games, which at times was equal. We showed character, we are growing and it’s a growth process. As I said, I am proud of the performances against Napoli, Juve, Roma and Inter, because to get to their level we need patience.
“I thank the club for giving me this support and confidence. To get the results, a process is needed, but I’m convinced that the team is improving. The results are not arriving, and the standings is hard to look at but now we have matches that are within our reach and in which we must make results.
“Hopefully this type of performance will see us in good stead. In what do we must improve? Given that we’re playing every three days, it’s difficult to train but this is not an alibi. We need imminent results and we have to work on everything. After this match the team must improve, we must be more concrete in the final third and have the goalmouth in our minds [Milan scored just 19 goals this term].
“Borini struggled as a wingback [he was put against Insigne]? We need to improve in our interpretation of the various phases of the game and that too is a journey. We wanted to cause Napoli problems on the wing with a more attacking player like Borini, who can give more freedom to Suso.
“Napoli have so much quality in attack and so many options to combine that if you get pinned back, you do risk conceding a goal. To defend against them we needed to keep the ball as much as possible. I preferred to attack them, as five in defense would’ve been too negative. I took a gamble. We also lost Suso and that forced more changes. I think Borini did well considering his characteristics.
“Milan’s objectives? I am truly optimistic, I don’t know why. I feel we have already overcome the worst period of our season and I see those in front going at a pace they cannot possibly maintain. I remain convinced these players will improve and give us better results going forward. I’m confident we’ll be in for one of the first four places [Milan are currently 11 points behind 4th place].”
Speaking to Sky, Montella added: “It hurts, we are improving in some stages and we have to improve in others. We faced a team of higher level, but we were always in the game and played with order. In the second half we were more continuous, we weren’t conclusive enough and we have to quickly improve that. The performance was there, even a tie could’ve been there.
“The head-to-head matches? On Saturday the team gave all its energy and demonstrated a growth in personality. The team reacted after the second goal of Napoli. I’m particularly optimistic and the guys can still grow. We are showing that we’re getting closer to the big sides. We need to improve in the interpretation of moments of the game, which is what makes the difference.
“My choices [Montella used Bonaventura as a wingback and played Locatelli in an advanced role in the first half]? I must make choices, I have so many new players. This game was decided by the construction of the play and we worked harder on this. If you are unable to get the geometries right, then you lose inertia and we didn’t lost it. In front of us there was a team that defends optimally.
“The moments of the match? The coach can send messages with substitution of players, but the interpretation of the moments depends on the team’s reading. I’m always very sorry when we lose, we work to achieve great results but to get them it takes a path, when you start a revolution.
“If we can reach the top 4-5? Absolutely yes, there is still time.” Montella has had this squad since the start of July and even though some improvements have been made, it’s clear that it’s far from enough.
The coach also had a post-match presser at the San Paolo: “Milan did well but had no fire power in attack? Napoli are fighting for the league title; they have won 100 points in 39 games. Their level of play is very high, and our intentions were to limit their passing game because they tire their rivals out through ball possession and wait to find spaces up front. Napoli did what they know best, even if this time they were not as clinical, they managed to win even when the match was even. We conceded the second goal right when we were playing at our best, but this is football.
“Playing Borini on the wing? He has been playing in that position for a while now. He played a good game, supporting the defense and pushing forward at the same time. Suso’s injury? He suffered a contusion. Leaving Ricardo Rodriguez out? He has played from the start almost every match with me. I made a choice between him and Romagnoli based on the demands of this clash. If we can play with two strikers from the start? Yes, it’s already happened, and it depends on the matches.
“How much more time is given for growth? I don’t know. Meanwhile we are done with the teams that are above us.” Milan’s next 4 matches are Austria Wien (H), Torino (H), Benevento (A) and Rijeka (A).