Pioli credits 'positive step' after Milan beat Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League

By Sports Desk September 14, 2022

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli noted the "positive step" his team took as they earned their first win in the Champions League group stage this season against Dinamo Zagreb.

An Olivier Giroud penalty was followed by goals from Alexis Saelemaekers and substitute Tommaso Pobega, though Mislav Orsic briefly made a game of it as he pulled a goal back before the latter's late strike.

The win was Milan's first at home in the Champions League since September 2013 when they beat Celtic 2-0.

The six games without victory at San Siro was their longest run in the competition, having drawn three and lost three, but the win against their Croatian opponents on Wednesday gave the Rossoneri four points in Group E, having drawn 1-1 at Salzburg last week in their first game.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia after the game, Pioli spoke of "dreaming" but noted caution as he felt his team could still play better.

"Dreaming is beautiful, the parallel is 'dreaming at night and working during the day to be able to achieve our dreams'," he said.

"Today's victory is yet another positive step, but we can do better."

Giroud's 45th-minute penalty was just his second goal in his last 12 Champions League appearances.

The France international had only taken six shots in his previous six appearances in the competition for Milan, but got four away against Dinamo, with three on target.

Speaking to Milan TV after the game, Giroud outlined his desire to keep scoring goals in Europe's premier competition, with back-to-back games against his former club Chelsea on the horizon.

"We started the match well, we could have improved the last pass and our finishing, but we are very happy," he said.

"It is always a special emotion to play the Champions League. I am very happy because I have one more goal and I want to continue like this."

Related items

  • England 0-0 Slovenia: Three Lions top group despite underwhelming display England 0-0 Slovenia: Three Lions top group despite underwhelming display

    England finished first in Group C at Euro 2024 but again disappointed during their goalless draw with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday.

    The Three Lions endured another flat display in front of goal, with Bukayo Saka's ruled out first-half effort the only real moment of quality from Gareth Southgate's side.

    An injection of pace from substitute Cole Palmer threatened to spark England into life, but a winning goal eluded them as they finished with just five points from their three group games.  

    Despite the draw, England topped Group C following Serbia's goalless draw with Denmark, meaning they avoided a last-16 tie against hosts Germany. Matjaz Kek's side, meanwhile, secured their place in the knockout stages for the first time ever at a major tournament.

    With hopes of a fast start from the Three Lions, it was Slovenia who registered the first effort as Benjamin Sesko saw his header comfortably gathered by Jordan Pickford. 

    England thought they had taken the lead when Saka rounded off a slick attacking move, only to see what would have been his 12th international goal ruled out for offside.

    Kieran Trippier came close to providing the opening goal, but his teasing delivery evaded both Conor Gallagher and Harry Kane inside the Slovenia penalty area. 

    The introduction of Kobbie Mainoo for Gallagher at half-time aimed to add some attacking impetus, with his presence instantly sparking the absent pace from the England midfield. 

    John Stones almost marked his 75th England appearance with a goal as he saw his header cleared off the line, with Marc Guehi unable to keep the loose ball alive. 

    England continued to create a flurry of potential opportunities, with Declan Rice flashing an effort wide of Jan Oblak's goal and substitute Cole Palmer also seeing his effort repelled by Slovenia's number one. 

    The result for Southgate's side confirmed Croatia's elimination from the tournament, with the full-time whistle greeted with frustration by the England support as Slovenia celebrated a remarkable achievement.

    England yet to dazzle, but get the job done

    With the expectations of England's plethora of attacking options possibly being enough to win the tournament on their own, it was yet another underwhelming display. 

    A front three of Kane, Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, with the trio also managing just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box. 

    With much of the focus surrounding Jude Bellingham, the Los Blancos star was a shadow of the man who scored 23 goals for Real Madrid this season. 

    The 20-year-old completed 86% of his 57 passes, the second-lowest of England's midfield behind Gallagher (85%) and an improvement will be needed regardless of whoever England's last-16 opponents end up being.

    Resilient Slovenia get their rewards

    Despite failing to win a game at Euro 2024, Slovenia proved difficult opponents for each of Group C's sides and have received their just rewards. 

    Slovenia are now undefeated in their last 4 games in the Euros, their longest unbeaten streak in the competition (since at least 1992).

    Kek's side can also take pride from maintaining their unbeaten record arriving into the tournament, and have now not tasted defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions (W4 D5), matching the longest ever unbeaten run in their history (9 games between September 2020 and March 2021).

    It remains to be seen who awaits Slovenia in the next round, but they can take pride with their sensational achievement on the international stage. 

  • Denmark 0-0 Serbia: Danes book Germany date in round of 16 Denmark 0-0 Serbia: Danes book Germany date in round of 16

    Denmark booked their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 as they drew 0-0 with Serbia, who were eliminated.

    The Danes went into the last matchday of Group C knowing a victory could see them through as winners, but instead Kasper Hjolmund's team had to settle for second, meaning they will take on hosts Germany on Saturday.

    Serbia, on the other hand, needed a win to stand any chance of progressing, but with Novak Djokovic watching on from the stands in Munich, Dragan Stojkovic's could not get over the line.

    They had their chances. Luka Jovic had a goal disallowed and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who had two penalty appeals waved away, curled just wide.

    Dusan Vlahovic also went close with a late header that looped onto the roof of the net, but the Danes got the job done, despite not winning a match in Group C.

    England, who also drew 0-0 with Slovenia in the other game, top the group.

    Data Debrief: Serbia's major slump

    Serbia are winless in their last eight major tournament matches (drawn two, lost five) since a 1-0 win over Costa Rica at the 2018 World Cup. They last had a winless run as long as this at tournaments between 1974 and 1982 as Yugoslavia (eight games).

    Indeed, since winning four consecutive matches between January and June 2023, Serbia have only won four of their 14 games in all competitions (drawn four, lost six) and have kept just two clean sheets during that span.

  • Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica: Wasteful Selecao frustrated in Copa America opener Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica: Wasteful Selecao frustrated in Copa America opener

    Brazil began their Copa America campaign with a frustrating goalless draw against Costa Rica at the SoFi Stadium.

    The Selecao dominated large periods of the Group D clash. Marquinhos saw a goal ruled out following a VAR review, while Lucas Paqueta rattled the woodwork from distance.

    Yet despite enjoying just under three-quarters of the possession and registering 19 shots to their opponents' two, they could not find the breakthrough and failed to win their opening match in the competition for the first time since 2016.

    Dorival Junior's side subsequently lost early ground on Group D leaders Colombia, who beat Paraguay 2-1 earlier in the day.

    Brazil quickly asserted their authority on proceedings in California as they sought the game's opening goal.

    Rodrygo steered a shot wide following a jinking run into the penalty area, while Raphinha was denied by Patrick Sequeira after latching onto a diagonal ball over the top of the Costa Rica defence.

    The Selecao thought they had broken the deadlock on the half-hour mark when Marquinhos applied the finishing touch after Rodrygo glanced Raphinha's free-kick towards the far post, only for the strike to be ruled out for offside following a VAR review. 

    Rodrygo fired narrowly over in first-half stoppage time and, then on 63 minutes, Lucas Paqueta saw his ferocious 25-yard drive crash against Sequeira's left upright.

    Dorival withdrew the quiet Vinicius Junior in favour of Endrick and Savinho for the final 20 minutes, and both looked dangerous upon their introductions.

    The latter's cross almost saw Costa Rica defender Haxzel Quiros head into his own net with his blushes spared by Sequeira, who then beat away Guilherme Arana's fierce volley.

    Savinho was involved again in stoppage time as he teed up one final opportunity for Bruno Guimaraes, who bent his first-time shot narrowly wide to compound a frustrating start to the tournament for the nine-time winners.

    Selecao stutter on return to States

    It is fair to say Brazil do not boost particularly fond recent memories of playing in the United States in recent years.

    After all, the Selecao crashed out in the group stages when the Copa America was last held in this nation eight years ago.

    Neymar, who was part of that side, watched on from the stands having been ruled out of this tournament through injury.

    Try as they may, his team-mates just could not break down their opponents and turn their dominance into the elusive goal, with just three of their 19 attempts on target.

    Fresh from playing a starring role in Real Madrid’s LaLiga and Champions League double, Vinicius Junior was unable to inspire his nation – his tallies of 45 touches and 23 passes were the lowest recorded by any of Brazil’s outfield starters.

    On a brighter note, Marquinhos made his 16th Copa America appearance – with only Dani Alves (19) and Thiago Silva (18) playing more times for the Selecao in the competition since 2000 – though a VAR review prevented him from marking the occasion with a goal.

    Another clean sheet for repellent Costa Rica

    Costa Rica were heavy underdogs on their return to the Copa America for the first time in eight years.

    Not since 2004 have Los Ticos progressed from the group stages of this competition, but they certainly know what it takes to claim a scalp on the big stage.

    Exactly 10 years ago, they beat Uruguay and Italy to top Group D, which also featured England, on the way to reaching the World Cup quarter-finals.

    Fast forward a decade and Joel Campbell, who was part of that side, came off the bench for his 140th cap as his nation halted a run of nine successive defeats by Brazil. 

    More impressively, Costa Rica have kept clean sheets in each of their last four competitive games.

    Their failure to record a single shot on target for the first time in a Copa America match since 2011 will be a slight concern, but that defensive stubbornness will stand them in good stead as they look to progress in this tournament.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.