After a last-gasp 1-1 draw at Manchester United in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday, Stefano Pioli praised his “extraordinary” Milan players.
When teenage substitute Amad Diallo scored after 50 minutes in Manchester, United appeared to be on the verge of taking a slender lead into next week’s second leg at San Siro.
Simon Kjaer of Milan, on the other hand, had other thoughts, scoring his first goal in 18 European games deep into stoppage time.
The Serie A side had 15 shots to the hosts’ seven, which was more than they deserved.
Although the result extended Milan’s winless streak against English teams in European competition to eight games, head coach Pioli was pleased with the Rossoneri’s ability to eke out a late equalizer and believes they deserved more from the game.
Pioli told Sky Sport Italia, “The team played with personality. In the tough times, we suffered. We know they’re fine, but this success has to improve our self-esteem. I thought Manchester United was the best opponent for us when we were drawn against them. We’re working hard to change and win again. We want to return Milan to its former glory, and these are the games where you can do so.
“We want to make it to the end, and to do so, we need to beat these teams.” While today’s result is promising, we still have another challenging game ahead of us. The work isn’t over yet. They make an excellent team.
“I am happy. I keep telling my players that I’m not working with a normal team. This is an exceptional community in every way.
I can only be pleased when I see the lads giving their all to achieve a successful result. It’s an outcome we probably would have welcomed before the game. After that, I can tell that we might have deserved more, but it’s still a decent result.
We had a strong team spirit, and we wanted to dominate the game and give it our all. To play as we do, we need to put in a lot of effort. Since September, we’ve been playing one game every four days, but these guys never give up. We must keep going; it is an important part of the season.”
A wonderful Franck Kessie volley was chalked off six minutes later after a VAR search revealed the midfielder had handled the ball in the fifth minute.