Stefano Pioli described the goal against Fiorentina as ‘a weight off our shoulders’, as Milan have 3 more games to go to potentially win the Scudetto.
After winning in the 92nd minute against Lazio last week, Milan again waited to the final minutes to get the victory as they took on Fiorentina at San Siro.
After missing countless chances, in the 82′ minute Rafael Leão took advantage of a Pietro Terracciano gift to send the ball to the back of the net. The Rossoneri now have 3 games to go until the end of the season and they need 2 wins and 1 draw to win the Scudetto.
“The team played and fought against a team that created difficulties for us,” Pioli told DAZN after the match. “Fiorentina were dangerous, but we have taken another step forward for us and our fantastic fans. From Tuesday onwards we’ll prepare for the next game.”
On how he lived through the goal: “It felt like a weight off our shoulders. We had several opportunities. We had the right mentality, we continued to work like a team. With matches like this there is always a bit of tension, we fight for a very important objective, so we all feel that energy and it becomes more difficult to sustain the longer it goes on. But the players, despite being very young, are doing well and maintain that confidence, the belief in themselves and ability to suffer under pressure, they are overcoming important steps in terms of awareness, of knowing how to suffer and we are at a good point.”
On the position of Theo Hernández in the build-up: “We knew that they’d have Nicolás González take on Theo and we tried to surprise them with how deep the fullback was. Today we chose to keep Theo higher and Calabria lower. I like the team a lot for how they work without the ball, they all work with great attention, intensity and communication. We have the qualities in front to be dangerous and concrete.”
On the mentality that has been built to overcome difficulties: “I believe that we have a perfect assembly line, which starts from the top and filters down, because those who run the club have faith and support our directors, the directors believe in my work, so consequently I believe in my work and my players. We are all positive even during difficult moments and we never stop believing in our capabilities, while knowing that we coach a very young team. But it’s the club first and foremost, with these spectacular directors that I have. Maldini and Massara are so supportive, they are always close to us at the training ground. We all know how things go in football: the players feel whether or not the directors value them and the coach knows if there is the trust of the directors and the club, and this is good for everyone. It gives us the opportunity to give our best. Now there will be 3 very difficult games, the important thing is that are still +5 in points from last year, this is our objective: to get more points than last year and then we’ll see, one game at a time. From Tuesday we’ll immediately think about the next game, we must do so.”
On the path together: “We are winning the games in the final minutes because above all the players who have been playing less enter with the absolute desire to help the team until the end: this way you become a team and overcome the difficulties. As far as our path is concerned, we are constantly progressing, we don’t even know what our margins of growth are: for many it is the first time we are fighting for such an important objective. I wish my players and I to fight for these objectives again, but maybe for some it’s just this one time. This is why we must do everything necessary to do our best until the end.”
On why should Milan win the Scudetto compared to others: “We need to prove it on the pitch… We have our qualities and we must put them on the pitch in the best possible way: whoever wins is because in one way or another they’ll have done something more. We aim to do our best and think about next match.”
Pioli also had an interview with MilanTV: “I believe that in the first half, we could have worked better off the ball, especially with our two forwards because we’d prepared more aggressive pressing on their goalkeeper and not doing that made us run a bit more. The team tried to attack and be dangerous, they fought as always with great generosity and energy as well as a great mentality. The most important thing is despite time was running they never seemed to become hectic. I saw a lot of desire and energy but no frenzy or nervousness. That’s an important step forward for my players, my guys. We can absolutely be satisfied with this difficult win against a very strong team. Now we need to rest, then from Tuesday we’ll prepare for our next match. That’s the only way for us to give our all.”
Does it happen to those who believe in it?
“I have a squad that believes in our objective, they know that with their quality and their efforts and sacrifices, they can make impact on the performance and often the result as well. I am satisfied with this win, because every brick we add to our ‘wall’ in the league is starting to become more valuable. As for recovering and preparing, we have a full week to work well because we face another tough and difficult opponent in Verona; they man-mark the whole field, are fast and strong, and will surely be looking to do everything to beat the league leaders, because we’ll still be top of the table. That’s why we need to prepare as well as we can because we’ll need to perform at a high-level next Sunday too.”
Also today there was a great contribution from the fans…
“I remember clearly, I don’t read the newspapers but I hear the rumours, when people would say that Milan was strong only because there were no fans. It’s absurd, our fans give us energy, and they give us strength, passion and support. Obviously, we must accept our responsibilities; when we play poorly or lose, we’ll be criticized. That is normal in sport, our fans are wonderful; when we arrive at the stadium, the welcome they give us… and they were spectacular in the second half. This is a relationship which must continue as it is because all together we are much stronger and we can all aim to give our very best. Then, in the end we’ll see.”
You changed the tactical setting during the game…
“We are lucky that everyone is in good condition, which gives us the option to change matches by changing our characteristics or switch a position which can take certainties away from our opponents. I think Maignan was the best player on the field today; for that save but more so for how he played with his feet. He was the player that had more time on the ball and nearly always made the right choice for the team.”
A great game from Maignan…
“It might seem strange for the goalkeeper to be so crucial in a team’s build-up play but nowadays, especially in Italy, there are many teams that press and man-mark high up the field, they block all your passing lines and the ‘keeper is the only one with a bit more time to think on the ball. He is very good and he’s worked on it a lot, we’ve spent a lot of time working on it but he is constantly growing, sometimes your pass might not be precise, might be slightly off, but it’s the optimal solution to do well and he is doing it, he gave us great options and we managed to create a lot of chances thanks to him too.”
Many things were being said but Milan took another step forward…
“As time goes by, the fewer games remain and the more valuable the points become. We know we are fighting for something none of us would have imagined at the start of the season, but we’re in this race and we want to give it our all. We’re all good, we’re all calm and collected but then when we get to San Siro a bit of responsibility and a bit more energy start to creep in. We’re good, the guys are good and strong. They’re young and a lot of them are handling this type of pressure for the first time, and they’re overcoming the pressure. Every challenge we overcome means the team’s level has improved: whether technical, tactical, or most importantly mental; that is very important.”
Another 1-0 for Milan: what does it mean?
“We are not lucky, like we weren’t unlucky when we lost or drew, we’re not lucky we’re winning 1-0: we wanted these wins, we believed in them and we have the quality to achieve them. So we move on, looking forward to the next one.”
Speaking in a post-match press conference, Pioli said: “In the last 15 minutes I tried to stay lucid like the team did. We didn’t get caught up in the frenzy, we didn’t stop being a team. I also made some changes and was very attentive that we don’t make mistakes in our positions… we didn’t win by luck, but because we deserved it.”
Is there still like a climb or is it like coming down the hill?
“Uphill cyclists never look at the top, but they look in front of the wheel because if not they get scared. We have to keep going, with our head down. We have to think one game at a time.”
How have Ibrahimović’s last 24 hours been [since the passing of Mino Raiola]?
“I spoke little with him, I have a lot of respects for these moments. He didn’t just lose a normal person. He is a very sensitive guy, very kind, even if he shows a different image of himself. He is going through a very particular and delicate moment. I’m glad he came in well.”
Great game by Maignan…
“Mike was the best on the field, he was the only player not pressed. The fact that we didn’t concede a goal is our dedication to being attentive and never giving up.
Another goal in the final minutes…
“From a mental point of view, the team is growing a lot, especially when we are so good at overcoming the difficulties that opponents put in front of us. Although young, we are improving in how to suffer in difficult moments and how to overcome them.”
What sensations did San Siro give you?
“Fantastic. In the second half the support of the crowd was fantastic. I remember very well when they told us that we were doing well because the fans weren’t there… but we are stronger with our fans.”
Will you watch Inter?
“In half an hour I’ll be taking a shower, then go into the car and go rest.”