The coach was missing numerous important players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Olivier Giroud, Davide Calabria and Rade Krunic, but the substitutions made the difference this evening.
Theo Hernandez came off the bench to assist the Brahim Diaz goal and score the second himself, set up by another substitute, Alexis Saelemaekers.
“Breaking the deadlock is important, as it means Venezia cannot just sit behind the ball, but we cannot be frenetic. We lacked a bit of quality and precision in the first half, but with the right intensity and determination, we found a way through,” Pioli told DAZN.
It was tougher than expected, though, as despite 70 per cent possession, they had only four shots on target, but Milan showed their confidence and self-assurance by not panicking, unlike in situations like this during the 2020-21 campaign.
“I knew the work we’d done last season would pay off this term, as it’s a process and sooner or later they were always going to reach these levels.
“We won many games last season, but in my view the thing we have more now is that we have matured and also have support from the fans that last season we were lacking. Our objective is to improve our home record from last season, and I think we can do that with the help from our supporters at San Siro.”
Kalulu impressed at right-back, having already done well coming off the bench against Juventus, while Fode Ballo-Toure had his first start in the Rossoneri jersey.
“He is doing very well, he played in the Olympics with France and the Under-21 team. He has matured too, and still needs to improve in some areas, but he’s progressing as expected. I also liked Ballo-Toure, he worked well in both the defensive and attacking phases, so deserved this opportunity.”
Pioli made adjustments with his substitutions, also practically moving to a system with three at the back, because Venezia simply weren’t attacking in sufficient numbers to warrant a four-man defence.
“We thought in the first half with two trequartista players that we could break between the lines, but we didn’t manage it at all. Bennacer could’ve pushed forward a bit more, but otherwise it was what we had planned.
“In the second half, we put Kalulu a little deeper, to protect against Dennis Johnsen’s runs on the counter.”
Pioli was asked if Giroud and Ibrahimovic will be available for this weekend’s next Serie A match against Spezia.
“They are certainly doing better, we all hope to have them at our disposal soon. We all know what they can bring to the team, in terms of quality, talent and leadership. We hope to have them Saturday, we’ll see.”
— calciomercato.com (@cmdotcom) September 22, 2021