Stefano Pioli has hailed Milan’s team spirit following a crucial 2-0 home victory over relegation-threatened Benevento on Sunday night. Hakan Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez were on the scoresheet as the Rossoneri bounced back from two consecutive Serie A defeats.
Overwhelming favorites to claim all three points, Milan went into this matchday on the back of dismal back-to-back losses to Sassuolo and Lazio. The Lombardian side’s dip in form has seen them go from the Serie A title contenders to fighting tooth and nail to return to the Champions League.
Ahead of the kick-off, the Rossoneri were fifth in the league stands but level on points with Juventus, who travel to the Dacia Arena to meet Udinese tomorrow. So, Pioli’s men have fought their way back into the top-four at least until Juve’s encounter with improving Friulians.
Milan benefited from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to the fold as the Swede started the match after overcoming a minor injury setback. The veteran striker was absent in his side’s abovementioned defeats, but his presence on the field completely changes the complexity of Pioli’s setup.
The Italian manager refused to overlook Ibra’s impact, even though the 39-year-old failed to find the net.
“Ibra is important because he makes his teammates grow. We were penalized because we couldn’t have him for long but what’s important is that now he is back with us. He has advanced football intelligence and can dialog very well with all his teammates.
“We suffered for those two losses from a mental standpoint, but tonight we showed that we can react.”
Exited about his side’s overall performance against Filippo Inzaghi’s men, Pioli singled out the team’s spirit as one of the main qualities this Milan squad possesses.
“You can’t go anywhere without a team spirit, we need to be a team from the start to the end. Tonight I saw good things in regard to that.
“Points are very heavy now, if we didn’t win tonight it was going to be heavy but we were not afraid to play the ball. It takes a mental effort to play this kind of football but tonight we did it. We need to be more solid when our opponents have the ball. Because if we have an ambitious goal our performances need to be at the same level.”
“I like Calha a lot because he has quantity, quality, and generosity. He works for the team but we are yet to see his best, he must improve with his key passes, but he is finding the right confidence. Given his technique and timing, he could have more than ten goals or ten assists. But I’m happy with everybody tonight.
“We feel both the management and the technical staff close to us, these are people who know football and know how to help us.”