Stefano Pioli gave all the credits to his players after winning the Derby della Madonnina on Saturday with two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović.
The amazing form of Milan continued on Saturday: the Rossoneri of Stefano Pioli took on Antonio Conte’s Inter, arguably the best team in Serie A, and they managed to get the win and color Milano in Red and Black for the first time in a Serie A Derby della Madonnina since 2016.
Zlatan Ibrahimović (12′, 15′) and Romelu Lukaku (29′) scored the goals in an incredibly intense and entertaining match. Inter were better for a big part of the game but Milan did well to deny them from scoring more than once and keep their lead.
Milan remain at the top of the table and are the only team in Serie A to have won all their matches this season. 12 points out of 12, 1 goal conceded. Before the match, the fans of Milan accompanied the team bus with a parade of motorcycles and cars, singing choirs and supporting the team.
“There’s a saying in football I like a lot: ‘the winner celebrates, the loser explains’ and I’d say our players deserve full marks, full marks for winning such a difficult match against such a strong opponent, a game that was so important to us and everyone around the club, for our work and our fans, who were fantastic today,” Pioli told MilanTV at the end of the match. “I rarely get emotional but that was really touching, for the players as well I think, to see all the enthusiasm and passion that followed us on our way to the stadium, seeing their desire to be close to us even though they can’t be at the stadium, unfortunately. This is a result I dedicate to my players because they deserve it, but especially to our fans.
“Preparing for the game? The group is solid, they want to work together and have good cohesion. We work well at Milanello, the ownership and management are doing everything to ensure we can work well and this was a symbolic hug with all the fans who came today but couldn’t be in the stands to celebrate with us. The guys did very well because we only had one training session and a bit of study. However, we have created a structure now that allows us to take a few gambles, being so aggressive and pressing high especially against opponents as strong as Inter. We took a few calculated risks but were always a danger up front, so it was a hard-fought and strongly desired win and it highlights the team’s growth, especially in their mentality.
“Leão? He is developing and doing well, I believe he can demand more from himself because he has the quality and ability to make decisive plays. At the same time, the work the team does must be recognized and respected and he needs to learn how to be more consistent inside a match. That said, he is a quality player and needs to show it on the field and learn how to have fun and laugh more and to give his full contribution to the team.
“If the standings is hanging the locker room? We have a special standings which we’ll reveal later on, it’s a team ‘secret’ but the key thing is to play every game with this spirit, this desire to win, to attack and play football and it’s something the guys have within themselves as well as their excellent qualities so we have to continue playing like this. I don’t want to dampen the mood but this is just the beginning of the season. We have to be focused on doing well on Thursday against Celtic, and then against Roma. This year we have a lot of matches, many of them difficult, the level of the competition in Italy has improved a lot, the teams have gotten stronger… I saw the first half of Napoli-Atalanta, Atalanta are really strong but today Napoli was devastating. Then you’ve got Juve, Inter who are really strong, Roma, and Lazio and so on… We have to continue working with the right balance of serenity and seriousness to do our best every game.”
Speaking to Sky Italia, Pioli said: “I already said yesterday that the result would not be decisive one way or another. Of course, we’re satisfied to have beaten a side that has a lot of quality and caused us many problems, but we held out well and hit back when we had the opportunity. It’s an important victory for our fantastic fans – they escorted us to the stadium so enthusiastically. It stays a beautiful win but there’s a long road ahead of us and so much we still need to improve.
“Ibrahimović? He was very tired and even asked to come off, but this time I didn’t listen to him. Ibra is a Champion in everything, his contribution to the team is crucial. We beat a strong team, we stayed on track showing that we’d learned our lesson. We are growing.
“The fact that I was close to leaving a few months ago? Those who think too much about the past do not enjoy the present. We want to continue like this, the team spirit is incredible, we work hard for our cause. We won every game this season, but none of them were easy, which means we have to improve tactically and technically, because we cannot always rely on character. From the point of view of character this team has made an important growth.
“Why Leão was chosen to start? I was surprised that no one was expecting Leão because we’ve always played with a winger on the right and a striker of the left. Without Rebić and knowing he scored twice in his last game, it suited our style of play. I trusted him in the last game as well. It’s the way we play. We knew there would be a few more risks, but that’s how we wanted to take the game to Inter, even if it means opening up spaces for their forwards. We accept the calculated risk in order to attack more. We think we have many advantageous situations and we try to take advantage of them.
“A Milan ‘da Scudetto’? I like to think positive and consider myself an optimist, but I also acknowledge there are at least three or four clubs who invested more than we did and are at a more advanced stage. We are ambitious, but largely invested for the future. The campaign will be very difficult, there are 7 top-level teams and in the end only four will be happy – we hope to be among those four. If you want to challenge for the Scudetto, you need to raise the quality level of the squad. Even then, it takes a lot of time, there are sides that invested far more and haven’t done as well… we are doing it but a single year cannot be enough. The club has been wise to lay the foundations and build upon them going forward with some guys with potential.
“The defenders? I would like to underline the performance of the central defenders, we often had situations of 2 vs 2 and Kjær was able to handle the situation despite being booked after 21 minutes and Romagnoli had an excellent match on his return.
“My relationship with Ibra? I don’t give myself too much credit in the relationship with Zlatan. He is an exemplary professional, he is a competitive player and he is available. He told me on the first day: ‘You are the coach, I am the player and I will respect everything’. There will be times when we won’t get along but it applies to everyone. A very bust period starts, now we have to think about Celtic, we must try to continue to do and then there will be Roma.”