Milan coach Stefano Pioli said he was so overcome with emotion following Sinisa Mihajlovic’s return to the Bologna bench on Sunday that he just wanted to hug his opposite number.
Mihajlovic was back on the touchline for the first time since a bone marrow transplant last month, having been diagnosed with leukaemia earlier in the year.
Bologna were unable to make Mihajlovic’s return a victorious one, however, as Milan claimed a slender 3-2 win despite Nicola Sansone’s late penalty leading to a tense finish.
But Pioli spoke with more enthusiasm about Mihajlovic than he did Milan’s performance.
“It was a real pleasure to see him,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. “I wanted to hug him, but he said it was better not to [due to his condition]. But it was still exciting, a nice moment.
“I hope he is on the way to full recovery now. Having that moment together touched me, it really did.”
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) December 8, 2019
Krzysztof Piatek wore an expression of relief after he ended a goal drought that stretched back almost two months, opening the scoring with an early penalty after he had been tripped, and Pioli hopes that will help the Poland international’s state of mind.
“He was a fundamental point of reference for us today,” Pioli said of Piatek. “He won many duels and made an important impact for the team.
“We predicted Bologna would press high up the pitch, so we thought we’d have to play direct and he held the play up very well. He too will come out of this with more confidence.”
Theo Hernandez endured a mixed match, becoming the first player since Opta records began to score a goal, an own goal and concede a penalty in the same Serie A game, with Giacomo Bonaventura’s strike ultimately proving crucial as Milan took home the points.
Despite there being more negatives than positives about the defender’s display, Pioli was mostly pleased.
“Especially in the offensive phase, Theo is very strong,” Pioli remarked. “He has great timing of his forward runs, is strong physically and has a great left foot.
“He is the sort of player that can disrupt defensive balance in the opposition if he’s got space to run into ahead of him.”
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