Stefano Pioli lauded Milan’s “heart, intensity, passion and belief” after they beat Benevento 2-0 to return to the Serie A summit despite playing for nearly an hour with 10 men.
Franck Kessie’s penalty gave the visitors a first-half lead at Stadio Ciro Vigorito but Sandro Tonali’s dismissal before the break left the Rossoneri up against it.
An inventive finish from Rafael Leao gave Milan a much-needed two-goal cushion early in the second half, with Gianluca Caprari missing a spot-kick at the other end for the wasteful hosts.
The win marked a fine response to Inter’s 6-2 thrashing of Crotone earlier on Sunday, which had temporarily dislodged Milan from top spot.
But with his side now leading the way by a point, Pioli was full of praise.
Another win despite all the adversities!
— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 3, 2021
“We showed heart, intensity, passion and belief. It’s another very big victory,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“We don’t let the results of our opponents put pressure on us. We put pressure on ourselves by demanding the best.
“There were a few errors, but we showed such unity to bring the result home.
“Every result is important to boost the self-belief.”
Tonali was shown a red card after a careless lunge on Artur Ionita, with referee Fabrizio Pasqua upgrading his punishment from a yellow after reviewing the incident on the pitch-side monitor.
“I hugged Sandro in the locker room, he was sad about leaving the team down to 10 men,” said Pioli.
“The issue with VAR is that things look much worse when slowed down compared to the dynamics of the movement, but Sandro will learn from this.”
Next up for Milan is the visit of champions Juventus, though Pioli insists the result will not be pivotal in the title race.
“I think it’ll be a great game between two teams in excellent shape,” he said.
“I continue to say Juventus, Inter and Napoli are the strongest sides in Serie A, we just have to keep going along our path.
“It’s not decisive or the passing on of any baton. Juve won the last nine titles and aren’t far behind us at the moment.
“I continue to maintain we can talk about other things when we look at the table in April and if we are still in this position. Our strength has been to take it one game at a time, so we don’t want to change that attitude.
“We are missing some important players, Tonali will be suspended, so it’s going to be tough against Juventus. Whatever happens, it won’t be decisive.”
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