Stefano Pioli hailed Milan’s improved mental strength as they edged past Spezia 2-1 on Saturday.
Daniel Maldini opened the scoring on his first Serie A start, 12 years and 117 days after his father Paolo’s last Rossoneri appearance, before Brahim Diaz’s late winner came after Daniele Verde’s deflected equaliser.
The visitors lost the same fixture 2-0 last term and when Verde’s left-footed strike made it beyond goalkeeper Mike Maignan, it looked like Milan would drop points in the early stages of the title race.
However, Diaz proved the hero to propel Milan to 16 points in the competition after six games for just the third time in the three points for a win era, with Pioli delighted at his side’s response in the face of adversity.
“It’s a great victory, because we played well, but not very well, and getting the result anyway shows mental strength,” Pioli told DAZN in his post-match interview.
“This is a young squad, but they believe in themselves, in the team and in our approach to football. We must not lose our humility, but it’s only right they feel able to handle certain pressure and win any game.
“The pressure and expectations have increased around us this season, but we are showing that we can handle that.”
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 25, 2021
Indeed, Maldini’s winner made him the third generation of his family to score for the Rossoneri, 13 years and 179 days after Paolo’s last league goal and 60 years and 22 days since his grandfather Cesare’s final strike for the club.
And Pioli, who handed Maldini his first start as he was without a host of names, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tiemoue Bakayoko, was impressed with the youngster.
“The important thing about Daniel [Maldini] is that he has talent,” the Milan boss said.
“He has technique, a good vision of the game, but needs to be quicker and more intensive in shaking off his marker.
“[Mehdi] Bourabia was keeping tight to him and all he needed was another couple of metres to get away from his marker and open up those spaces.”
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