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Written By Onyeka Daniel

After a couple of bad results and injuries to important players had put them in a bad spot before the international break, AC Milan were able to bounce back with a hard fought 1-0 over Fiorentina at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium to hand Stefano Pioli a lifeline and give hope to the Rossoneri of salvaging their season.

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They were without a Serie A win in four rounds, so badly needed these points to get back on track and retain third place, especially after Napoli beat Atalanta and they did just that, even if they weren’t the better side, but will be grateful for the points all the same.

It took a Theo Hernandez penalty to decide the match, as he was brought down clumsily by Fabiano Parisi, but Mike Maignan also made a sensational stoppage-time save with his face to keep out Rolando Mandragora.

According to their manager, there’s ‘progress’ from Milan in their 1-0 victory, even if it wasn’t the most exhilarating performance, and jokes he could be Francesco Camarda’s grandfather. “It is natural that our performance was not the sharpest, not the one with the most quality.


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“We had a good first half, then mentally it couldn’t be our best performance and yet we made progress there by suffering, holding out and bringing home the points,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia after the game. “We had in our heads that we had always either been pegged back or lost in the second half during the previous matches. This victory must give us more confidence and faith going forward.”

The coach did not agree with suggestions that Milan have lost their identity or need to completely transform their approach. “Mentality makes the difference. The atmosphere in the stadium was not the same as usual either. I think we had the right approach to emerge from this difficult moment and prepare for the next match that will be decisive for our Champions League ambitions.

“I am sure that when we get results a bit more consistently, we can then get back to playing our beautiful style of football. There are moments where you have to do things this way.” Milan will be at San Siro again on Tuesday to host Borussia Dortmund in a showdown for qualification.

“The win over PSG boosted our chances and a victory against Dortmund would make a huge difference. The lads know the kind of performance they need that night, so in a way it makes my work easier.” In this game, history was also made as Pioli gave Francesco Camarda his debut at age 15 years and 260 days, the youngest ever Serie A player.

His introduction was out of sheer desperation, as Olivier Giroud was suspended, with Rafael Leao and Noah Okafor injured, leaving only Luka Jovic who was once again disappointing. “Francesco is a good lad, he is working well and we also need his freshness. He is very young, but also very mature. We were all very happy for him. I could be his grandfather…”

Milan were perhaps more defensive than usual, sitting deeper and inviting Fiorentina on, knowing the Viola have serious problems converting their pressure into goals. “Fiorentina hardly ever pushed their full-backs up the way we expected them to in the first half. In the second, we did not intend to sit deeper, but we were forced into it by them putting long balls forward.

“It’s not our general approach, but we proved already against PSG that we know how to grit our teeth and hold out. “The thing that concerns me is that we risked on set plays and that is happening a lot recently, we need to work on that.”

Juventus and Inter go head-to-head tomorrow evening, so Pioli was asked what result the Milan coach is hoping for, considering he is in third place? “The ideal for us would be a draw, as it could allow us to close up on the teams ahead of us. There is a very long way to go this season.” He further added.

Meanwhile…

As for Fiorentina manager, Vincenzo Italiano, he has lost patience with his strikers after the defeat to Milan in which once again they fired blanks. ‘I don’t know if it’s talent, ferocity, determination, but we cannot go home without scoring a goal.’ The Viola proved once again that their main problem is failing to turn their numerous opportunities into goals.

“We played the second half with this determination to get it back on track, but it is not the first time that we have created so much and then lacked the ferocity to finish it off. “The first half was not with a great tempo, but considering what we did after the break, I think we deserved at least a point from this game,” Italiano told Sky Sport Italia in his own post match interview.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times Fiorentina change their strikers, they always have these difficulties in front of goal. “I don’t know if it’s talent, ferocity, determination, I just know that with this second half we cannot go home without even scoring a goal. At least one goal. It’s disappointing, you come to San Siro, pin Milan back into their own half and don’t get anything to show for it.”

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“We have generally been able to just close the door on the previous match and focus on the next. If we start to think too much about regrets, it can affect your mentality. We can only hope that whatever is lacking can emerge. This is Week 13, it is still early days in the season in all the competitions and we hope that the breakthrough will come.”

There seems to be only so much that Italian can do tactically when Fiorentina dominate opposition teams and just don’t finish their chances. “Over these two years we have often had to find different solutions, in attack, defence, changing system, shaking up a few characteristics. I do feel there has to be something individual here too.

“Our strikers cannot go home with a smile on their faces after that second half. It has to start from there, they must feel it inside.” Lucas Beltran has still not scored a single goal in Serie A, while M’Bala Nzola off the bench did not give a strong response either.

“Beltran had a huge chance in the second half, that was a move where he simply had to do more when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He had this problem with his ribs and hadn’t trained much lately, but I saw everyone looking better in training, that is what I find frustrating.” The Argentine striker was sent clear on goal and his first touch was very heavy, allowing Maignan to rush out and clear.

“The truth is we had these corners where the ball was bobbling around in front of goal and we have to get it over the line, I don’t care how, if it’s with the face, knee, back, food, buttock, just get the ball in the net. There’s no getting around it, that is the situation. “We play well, dominate teams that are superior to us, so head up, don’t lose enthusiasm and keep going.” He further added.

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