Stefano Pioli recalled Milan’s journey to the Champions League semi-finals and emphasized the team’s great determination and heart, especially during the Europa League preliminary rounds when they were considered underdogs.
Milan had a one-goal advantage from the first leg and extended their lead in the second leg as Rafael Leao ran from the halfway line to set up Olivier Giroud for an easy goal. Giroud had missed an earlier penalty, which was saved by Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret. Later in the game, Mike Maignan also saved a penalty from Kvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Milan secured a place in the Champions League semi-finals after defeating Napoli, with Victor Osimhen’s diving header coming too late to make a difference. This is the first time Milan has reached the semi-finals of the tournament since their victory in 2007.
“We remember full well where our European journey started against Rio Ave. Everyone thought we were the underdogs, but we have a great heart, we wanted this with all we had and I congratulate my lads,” Pioli told Mediaset.
Milan are likely to play against their local rivals Inter in the semi-final of the Champions League, as Inter have a 2-0 advantage from the first leg against Benfica.
“It would look like that, as Inter won the first leg so well. These will be another two difficult, exciting and wonderful clashes in the Champions League. We’ve done a great deal and don’t want to stop now.”
Pioli praises Krunic’s display against Napoli
Stefano Pioli has become the seventh Milan coach to reach the Champions League semi-finals, following in the footsteps of Carlo Ancelotti, who achieved the feat 16 years ago.
“I think the small advantage of the 1-0 in the first leg helped us in one sense and blocked us in another. We chose, considering Osimhen was there, to sit a little deeper and not allow him those spaces where he can be devastating.
“We should’ve passed it around better in the second half, but many of these players had never even thought of coming so close to the Champions League semi-final. I saw an enormous sacrifice from my players, we trusted each other and our way of playing football to overcome a great Napoli side that caused us problems over both legs. We won it with heart, energy and belief.
“I am happy for our fans, who supported us above all when things were not going well and we are proud to have fans like this.”
Rade Krunic played a crucial role in all three of Milan’s games against Napoli this month by operating in the trequartista position and linking up the midfield with the attack. This tactical decision proved successful in the 4-0 victory in Serie A, the 1-0 win at San Siro, and the 1-1 draw in their most recent match.
“Rade has this way of reading the game that few other players have, both with attacking and defensive moves. It takes patience at a club like Milan and to be able to handle pressure, which is what we did today.”