Stefano Pioli saw some mistakes that need fixing as Milan beat Udinese 4-2 on Matchday 1 of Serie A.
After the summer break and some pre-season friendlies, real football returned today for the Campioni d’Italia, as they took on Udinese at San Siro.
Already after 2 minutes Milan found themselves behind, as an Udinese corner found the head of Rodrigo Becão who made it 1-0. 10 minutes later, Milan were awarded a somewhat controversial penalty following a VAR review on foul in the box on Davide Calabria; Theo Hernández took it and equalized. Four minutes later, an excellent team goal ended with Calabria finding Ante Rebić and the Croatian giving Milan the lead. The Rossoneri took over the game, but Udinese managed an equalizer in the last second of the first half through another header, this time Adam Masina was the scorer.
Milan came out with fire for the second half and after 1 minute Brahim Díaz found the back of the net, taking advantage of a gift given to him by Udinese. In the 68′ minute, Brahim was decisive again, as he assisted Rebić’s second. Pioli then brought on Charles De Ketelaere and Divock Origi.
The Rossoneri opened the season with three points against a side that they could not beat last year.
“What I liked and what I didn’t like? What we certainly didn’t like is the fact that we conceded the goal after a short time,” Pioli told DAZN after the game. “We have to start games better. Then we played half an hour of great football. We faced a very dangerous and physical opponent. We take away a lot of positive things and a lot to work on, as is normal considering the period.”
On Rebić: “He can help us a lot, he is a very strong player. He has all the characteristics to be an important player for us, I know it and he knows it. I think too often we judge a striker by the goal count, but the work he’s done for the team has definitely given us a lot.”
On Brahim Díaz and his goal: “We ask Brahim to be present in the box and be effective with assists: today he scored and he assisted. We played some balls with lightness, we have to improve on that. But the team took a step forward in terms of the desire and belief in our qualities.”
On the defensive game: “We conceded two goals on dead-balls, we made a change between the two center-backs that there was no time to make. On the corner we were careless. When we work well further up the pitch, the defenders are favored. We have players with certain characteristics that allow us to have a high defense line. Sometimes we look more intense with a high defense than with a low one, it’s a serious mistake that we need to work on. Next Sunday’s opponents is of a top level, we will have to raise the level of our performance.”
On De Ketelaere: “Very positive impressions, he is a very intelligent guy. He can read situations in advance. He had a particular summer so he is not in the best possible physical condition yet. He was probably used to working between the lines more alone, we aim to fill those spaces with more players. There is no doubt about his talent, but he comes from a different league and he will need the time to understand this football.”
On pace and intensity: “Honestly I have to say that we did the same loads in training as last season, it’s too important to try to be ready. We have a way of training that requires great intensity. The condition is already good. It is the way of playing that then has to lead to a certain kind of physical and mental performance. The players like to play in this way, we know we have to run a lot. If we run a lot and well then we have a chance to have dominance of the game and feel stronger than our opponents.”
On Bob Sinclar, Pioli is on Fire chant and the fans: “Our fans are fantastic, with their enthusiasm they give us even more strength and energy. The chant is always exciting, we hope it will continue for a long time. We have a good season ahead of us, we started well, and we have to work because also today we made some mistakes. We will make some more, you can’t think of being perfect, but we must think as perfect as possible.”
Speaking to MilanTV, Pioli said: “We made life difficult for ourselves in two ways: the goals we conceded and in how we moved the ball around. We could have been better on the ball at times. We can and need to play better. But, as always, we played as a team for 95 minutes; we played with a good tempo and we tried to get on the front foot and attack and test the opposition defense. We scored 4 goals, which is a lot, and could have had more, which means a lot went right. Other things less so, but that just gives us an excuse to get to work and focus on improving various aspects.”
On the desire to start well at San Siro: “We really wanted to get off to a good start in front of our fans, who gave us a lot of energy again today. Our motivation to start the campaign well has been key since we got back to training. We wanted to beat a team, against whom we didn’t win last season. Again, there were a lot of positives, but as in all games, there were a few little things which we really need to work out because the standard of this league is really high. Today was another example of how hard it is to win in Serie A.”
On the reaction to Udinese’s draw: “I think we slowed the tempo down when we needed to but, especially in the second half, we looked to go long a little bit too much when we could have instead shifted our opponents around so that we could maintain our spaces but the first game is always tough so there’s the chance for a mistake of a wrong choice, or picking up the wrong space. Sometimes it’s fitness, sometimes it’s your opponents who force you into a wrong decision. At times, we looked technically really sound today, in that 20-minute period until the 35th minute, we looked really good. Then we stopped playing a bit. We stopped looking to get forward, we stopped trying to cause them problems and then Udinese equalized. We then did really well to score straight way after the break and to show some great decision-making and conviction.”
On the first goal conceded: “On that goal we conceded at the start of the match, we need to look at that and we discussed it at the break; we need to deal with it as soon as possible. We have a few issues today: one being that strange start to the game. We’re a good team but it’s never easy when you concede straight away so we needed to fight back. And also, because Udinese are hard to beat. Again, there were a lot of positives and also a few things that we need to work on and improve upon so that we can play better.”
Pioli also held a post-match press conference: “We made what was not easy look easy? We complicated the game despite showing that we were superior to our opponents. We conceded 2 goals caused by our carelessness and due to technical errors. It was not an easy game, but we were a team creating dangerous chances with ease, but making mistakes that needed to be fixed.”
Great performance by Rebić…
“He had a very good performance. If Giroud had not had the physical problem during the week I don’t know what choices I would have made, but Ante is complete and he is strong. He sees plays that are not easy to see, he runs and he chases. He has to continue with this spirit.”
A thought on De Ketelaere and Origi…
“I hope to have it difficult, to have difficulty in choosing, the players know they have to compete with each other. We have a strong team and at the moment we are missing Zlatan. There have been moments with many injuries. The new players need to play: some are a bit more ready. Origi has done a few training sessions with us, Charles has just arrived, Yacine is strong… that’s good.”
Leão and Maignan are among the candidates for the Ballon d’Or: How satisfied are you? How much more can they grow?
“I’m very happy for them, it’s a great satisfaction. I put have also put Theo Hernández in the 30-man shortlist, but I don’t know how many defenders are on the list. We are aware of our path, we have done many good things but we could do better. We are not perfect, but we have to work to be as perfect as possible.”
Has the team been a bit unbalanced?
“It has nothing to do with it. When you coach, you have to put risks and benefits on the plate and we think that we have more benefits. I don’t think we are unbalanced that way.”
How did Origi and De Ketelaere come in?
“They came in well. Divock is more mature and he comes from a very high-level league and from a type of team with a similar game to ours. Charles is a great talent, he is very curious; he had a particular summer, his physical condition has to improve but he has everything to do well.”