Stefano Pioli was delighted with Milan’s thrilling win over Rio Ave after a rollercoaster of emotions in the Europa League play-off.
After 24 penalties in the shoot-out, Milan recorded a 9-8 victory, the encounter in Portugal having finished 2-2 following extra time.
Milan led through Alexis Saelemaekers before Francisco Geraldes equalised, and Rio Ave went ahead in extra time thanks to Gelson.
But Hakan Calhanoglu converted a 122nd-minute spot-kick to force an extraordinary shoot-out after Rio Ave defender Toni Borevkovic was sent off.
Pioli said the emotions of the clash were overwhelming, but he was thrilled to reach the group stage.
“It’s difficult to control emotions. We went from the possibility of winning to losing in an instant and vice versa,” the Milan head coach told a news conference, via Sky Sport.
“The penalty lottery has given very strong emotions and a great joy for having overcome a difficult opponent. We have reached the first goal of the season and you don’t win without suffering.”
Who said you could go to bed before watching this
— AC Milan (@acmilan) October 1, 2020
The likes of Saelemaekers, 21, Matteo Gabbia, 20, and Daniel Maldini, 18, started for Milan.
Pioli, whose side have also won their opening two Serie A games of 2020-21, praised the character of his team.
“We were strong, especially mentally, with a very young team,” he said.
“Some were also in their first experience in Europe. I’m very satisfied with the final result.”
Milan are in league action again on Sunday, when they host Spezia.
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