Stefano Pioli is dreaming of going all the way with Milan in this season’s Champions League after overcoming Tottenham in the first knockout round.
Milan held Tottenham to a goalless draw in Wednesday’s last-16 second leg in north London to secure a 1-0 aggregate victory and a place in next week’s quarter-final draw.
Mike Maignan made a superb save late on to deny Harry Kane, but Milan finished the game with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.37 compared to 0.46 for Spurs.
It is the first time since the 2011-12 campaign that Milan have reached the final eight of the competition, and Pioli is excited for what is to come.
“We were good today. We asked the team to play with personality,” he told Prime Video. “We never gave up and it’s a well-deserved passage through the next round.
“We have to take one step at a time. It was important to get through the group, then the round of 16, and now we’ll wait for the [quarter-final] draw.
“It’s clear that we’ll face a great team, but Tottenham were also a great team. Dreaming is nice; it helps you to work better.
“It’s wonderful to play in the Champions League. So either we win it, which would not be easy, or try to qualify by finishing in the top four in Serie A.”
Pioli, whose side are fifth in Serie A, added: “I like to think there’s nothing impossible in sport. Clearly, only the best in Europe remain and each round gets more difficult.
“But I’m sure all the experiences in Europe – especially the negative ones – help us to step up a level. Now we must go into the quarter-final with confidence and belief.”
Milan have kept four successive clean sheets in the Champions League for the first time since between April and October 2006.
Pioli’s decision to revert to a three-man defence has paid off, with his side winning five games out of seven since then.
“I took this decision after the defeat against Sassuolo,” Pioli said of the tactical switch. “It seems that the old system we used didn’t work well.
“The attitude has changed; the team works with more attention. We have three central defenders who are capable of playing in this system, so it was time to change.”
Kane’s late glancing header, which Maignan did well to get down and save, was the closest Tottenham went to scoring across both legs.
The hosts had Cristian Romero sent off for two bookable offences and Milan almost snatched a late winner on the day when Divock Origi broke clear but hit the post.
And former Arsenal striker Giroud, who played 81 minutes despite being a fitness doubt, believes Milan did enough to win the second leg.
“I told the lads we deserved to be in the Champions League last year and this season we want to go further,” he said.
“We deserved to go through thanks to our determination. I think we could’ve won this second leg as well and it’s a pity we didn’t score as we had the clearest chances.”
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