Vincenzo Montella paid tribute to nine-man AC Milan after their dramatic 1-0 victory at Bologna and singled out substitute Andrea Poli for praise after he played on through injury.
Mario Pasalic scored with one minute left after a superb Gerard Deulofeu assist as the visitors ended a run of four consecutive defeats in dramatic fashion.
The victory came despite Gabriel Paletta being sent off in the first half and Juraj Kucka also seeing red just before the hour-mark.
And Poli, who had come on for Carlos Bacca in a tactical change after Kucka’s dismissal, limped through to the final whistle to help Milan to victory despite suffering a knee injury with 12 minutes left.
“I want to compliment Andrea Poli because in a moment of great difficulty he was absolutely essential and helped out every single team-mate,” Montella told Sky Italia.
“He came on and did great, then he had an injury too so we were basically down to eight and a half men. But he worked so hard and I wanted to single him out for praise.
“It was difficult to hold in my emotions after the goal, given what we had lived through in a game like that.
“It is a great victory that is worth more than three points, as it proves this is a team with the attributes of spirit and organisation.
“We needed this to show ourselves that this spirit was within us and it was a victory earned with sheer determination.”
Poli himself tweeted after the match hailing Milan’s grit and the club responded by praising his “great match”.
— Andrea Poli (@AP16Official) February 8, 2017
Montella hailed the performance, but insisted he did not agree with the assessment Milan had been in a moment of crisis going into the game.
He added: “Naturally there are peaks and troughs in any season, but our biggest problems were many injuries and defeats in quick succession – freakish defeats.
“We lost to Napoli and Juventus who are stronger than us on paper, then against Udinese and Sampdoria we lost the kind of games you usually lose once a season.
“Our misfortune was losing them all consecutively. Those results made it look as if we were having a crisis but we absolutely were not. The results were bad, not the performances.
“I told the lads at half-time that this was a game that needed to be a turning point.
“I had seen teams down to 10 men turn games around, but winning with nine men was even more extraordinary.”
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