Stefano Pioli wanted to focus on enjoying Milan reaching the Champions League last four on Tuesday rather than a potential semi-final meeting with fierce rivals Inter.
Olivier Giroud’s first-half strike proved the difference as Milan progressed 2-1 on aggregate past Napoli, who pulled a late goal back through Victor Osimhen at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Inter could await in the next knockout round for Pioli’s side if the Nerazzurri can overcome Benfica on Wednesday, Simone Inzaghi’s side leading 2-0 on aggregate heading into the return leg at San Siro.
But Pioli was insistent on celebrating Milan’s achievements in reaching their first Champions League semi-final since 2007 after a 1-1 draw sent them through in Naples.
“I prefer to enjoy this qualification, whoever happens will happen,” the Milan coach said at his post-match press conference when asked about facing Inter.
“Whoever makes it through, it will be a great semi-final of the Champions League.”
The last-four clash will mark Milan’s seventh semi-final in UEFA’s premier club competition, the joint-most from an Italian side along with Juventus since the Champions League rebrand in the 1992-93 term.
“Another big step that the group has climbed,” Pioli added.
“I thank the club for helping us and I’m happy for the fans who helped us to overcome difficult moments with their support.”
What a feeling #NapoliMilan #UCL #SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/BQIlNEPyE5
— AC Milan (@acmilan) April 18, 2023
Napoli have failed to progress from four of their five Champions League knockout ties, with their only success coming in the last-16 round this season against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Luciano Spalletti’s side are also without a win in their last three games in all competitions (D2 L1), having failed to win just three of their 16 previous games (W13 D1 L2).
Yet Napoli will likely soon be crowned Serie A champions, leading the Scudetto race by 14 points with eight games remaining, which made the triumph even sweeter for Pioli.
He added: “Napoli will deservedly win the championship and we are all the more proud of having managed to eliminate them.
“We have put so much into these two games and we won.”
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