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Milan manager Stefano Pioli said his team lacked the “personality” to finish off Red Star Belgrade after a late draw meant the Rossoneri had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Serbia.
The head coach hinted that Sunday’s top-of-the-table Serie A clash with Inter would be an ideal game to recover from the disappointment of their trip to the Europa League.
However, with the evidence from Milan’s performance on Thursday, Inter may have a glorious opportunity to press their claims for a first Scudetto in 11 years.
An own goal by Radovan Pankov and a penalty by Theo Hernández helped Milan take a 2-1 lead, but Milan Pavkov then headed in a tremendous equalizer in the third minute added.
It meant that a Red Star team that lost Milan Rodic to a red card in the second half was able to finish the game high, no doubt a thrill for their head coach Dejan Stankovic, formerly a star of Inter’s midfield.
For Pioli, it was a case of what could have been in the first leg in the knockout stage and the concern over a lack of killer instinct.
A bitter result in Belgrade but 2 crucial goals away
– AC Milan (@acmilan) February 18, 2021
Pioli told Sky Sport Italia: “We didn’t win because we lacked personality at the end.”
He explained: “The quality was lacking to score the third goal. We deserved to win, with the numerical superiority we should not have granted them anything.
“We had victory in our hands, we had to look for the third goal. However, it is a good result for the second leg. “
That return game comes next Thursday, with Sunday’s derby a crucial match before then. The proximity of the clash with Inter was surely the reason why Pioli allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie to spend the full 90 minutes on the bench in Belgrade, with Hakan Calhanoglu only entering the final minutes as Milan chased that elusive third goal. .
“We need to analyze our games well and raise the level of performance,” Pioli said. “This is an important moment of the season and we have important commitments. We can do better. “
Any signs of weakness in the derby will likely be taken advantage of by Inter, who beat Milan at the top of the table last weekend.
“We have our qualities, they have theirs,” Pioli said. “The challenge comes at the right time, we want to be prepared.”