Despite missing six first team players including both strikers Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, plus losing Simon Kjaer during the first half, the Rossoneri grew as the game wore on and fought back from the early Alvaro Morata counter-attack.
Ante Rebic rose to meet a Sandro Tonali corner for the equaliser and Pierre Kalulu even threatened a late winner, denied by a desperate Wojciech Szczesny save.
“We came here to win the game. Juventus did better in the first 20 minutes, were more determined and focused, but we continued playing and did much better towards the end with chances to win, so it was overall a positive performance,” Pioli told DAZN.
“We were up against Juventus, so Dybala, Morata, Alex Sandro, Cuadrado, Bonucci, Chiellini. We played good football. We conceded a goal where we made too many naïve mistakes, which allowed Juve to defend deep and counter in the first half.
“As always, Milan do not lack desire, character, determination and grit, so we continued seeking the victory throughout the match.”
Due to Davide Calabria’s injury, Fikayo Tomori was used as a right-back initially, but then that changed too when Simon Kjaer went off with a muscular issue.
“Juventus worked very well down the right, so the collaboration between Saelemaekers and Tomori should’ve been better, but it’s also true Juve deserve credit for escaping our initial press and that opens up the spaces,” continued the coach.
“Maybe last season we needed to not exactly hope in a miracle to win this game, but certainly hope for some luck. Now we must be aware that we’re at this level and must go for the victory to the very end. I liked that courage, we were ready to risk defeat in order to push for the win.”
The striker shortage means that Rebic has been adapted in a centre-forward role, though he clearly prefers a wider support position.
“He has immense intensity and quality, can play in more or less any role and helped out today. He is a very important player for us and can really help us to break games open too.
“I have always seen my players ready to overcome their limitations, they have quality and work throughout the week with diligence and a sense of belonging. The opposition might be better on the night, but we will always give it our best going for the victory.”
Pioli pointed out something about tonight’s match after the 3-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League, which showed the radical difference in tempo between divisions.
“I just want to make a note that people say Italian teams struggle in Europe because of the tempo. I will say today we had 48 minutes of actual football played.
“There are too many gaps, too much arguing, too much waiting around, too many free kicks, too many stoppages. We need to improve this all together or we will inevitably struggle when entering a different atmosphere.”
Pioli a DAZN: “Siamo venuti qua per vincere, siamo migliorati nel secondo tempo. Felice della crescita dei miei giovani” https://t.co/oQGC5PM6Vc
— MilanNews.it (@MilanNewsit) September 19, 2021