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Written By Onyeka Daniel

AC Milan achieved an excellent feat when they defeated English Premier League side, Newcastle United at the St James Park in the UEFA champions league, but it wasn’t enough to secure them a place in the knockout stages of the competition. And according to their manager, Stefano Pioli, he felt that Milan ‘proved strength, character and pride’ in the comeback victory over Newcastle United, so while they are out of the Champions League, ‘we will do everything to win the Europa League.’

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“There are many feelings, certainly going out of the Champions League is disappointing, especially considering how we well did last season,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia after the game. “We knew this group was completely different and very difficult. It’s sad to have regrets, we deserved more and did not know how to take our opportunities in the other games, whereas tonight we did do that. We were not intimidated or demoralised by an opponent that played with incredible intensity.

“This means we will do everything we can to win the Europa League.” It was put to Pioli that the first half performance was sluggish and did not look like a team that had to win this match in order to progress. “I don’t think we played badly the first half, but Newcastle had this incredible intensity and highlighted our errors. They had lost at home only twice this season against Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, while we had not won in England for many years and finally it arrived.”


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The only’time Milan had won on English soil was 1-0 at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium in 2005, around seven draws and 13 defeats. “Today’s performance should only give us confidence going forward. My big regret is that the team is not making the most of its potential right now, in Europe and in Serie A, so that is what I must work on and try to change that.

“This squad has so much potential, we created so many chances especially in the Champions League and lacked that bit of determination and quality. With that, we would’ve been here celebrating Champions League progress. “Clearly, we can only now try to consolidate third place in Serie A and then try to do more. Our minimum objective is to qualify for the Champions League again, that is the very least we can aim for.”

Rafael Leao made his comeback after a month out with a thigh injury and should’ve scored when he thumped the base of the upright on the counter-attack. “He has matured a great deal, is more focused, responsible and participates more in the game, but that’s natural to see growth when he has been here since he was 19. I didn’t even know how many minutes he could guarantee this evening, I kept asking how he was feeling. He managed to hurt Newcastle in the second half with his pace.”

Mike Maignan made an extraordinary save on the Bruno Guimaraes curler, pushing it onto the crossbar, but after that Milan seemed more in control. “Unfortunately, we have seen recently that we dropped in intensity during the second half, so I had already planned changes to keep up the tempo and give a few more options.

The team proved its strength, character and pride to win a very difficult game against a strong opponent.” He further added. For Leao, he also echoed the same sentiment about winning the Europa League. The Portuguese forward had been out of action for a month with a thigh injury and looked decidedly rusty in the game against the Magpies.

“It was difficult. These moments of increased responsibility help me to grow. I wasn’t feeling great in the first half, but the team helped me raise my level after the break.” He said. “We wanted to continue in the Champions League, but we celebrated at the final whistle because these are still three important points,” “Now we enter the Europa League and will try to win it, because it is a trophy that Milan have never won.” He further added in his own post match interview.

Meanwhile…

Gigio Donnarumma thanks Luis Enrique for his ‘trust’ and his former Azzurri teammate Giorgio Chiellini who had claimed the PSG goalkeeper is the ‘best’ Italian player. Donnarumma was involved in PSG’s 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, who have managed to qualify for the Champions League Round of 16, sending Milan to the Europa League.

Donnarumma has had a tough time at PSG, conceding avoidable goals against Monaco and Newcastle lately and receiving a red card after barely 10 minutes in a Ligue 1 game against Le Havre on December 3. Nevertheless, Luis Enrique had confirmed his trust in the Italian goalkeeper on the eve of the Borussia Dortmund meeting.

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“I thank the coach for his trust in me,” Donnarumma told Sky Sport Italia. “I always try to be available for the team; we are humans, not robots. The most important thing is to keep our heads held high, work hard and always be ready.” Donnarumma was greeted by his former Italy captain, Giorgio Chiellini, one of the guests of Sky Sport Italia’s post-match show. The ex-defender said Donnarumma is currently the best Italian player.

“I thank Giorgione because he is always nice to me, I am really grateful,” Donnarumma replied. “He is a friend of mine. I love him, and I’ve read he has retired, so best of luck to him. We shared incredible moments together, we made history and I am glad to have been part of his journey.” Donnarumma and Chiellini became European champions with Italy in 2021 beating England in a Final at Wembley Stadium and winning the second European Championship in the Azzurri’s history.

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