Pioli 'satisfied' but expecting Spurs response after Milan secure first-leg lead

By Sports Desk February 14, 2023

Stefano Pioli was "satisfied" with a 1-0 Champions League win over Tottenham but knows Milan face a stern test in the second leg.

Brahim Diaz's early goal at San Siro on Tuesday ensured the Rossoneri will take a slender advantage to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 8 in the battle for a quarter-final spot.

The Serie A champions beat Torino 1-0 last Friday to end a dismal run of seven games without a victory and they followed that up with a first win over Spurs in a competitive match at the fifth attempt.

Charles De Ketelaere and Malick Thiaw wasted glorious chances to extend Milan's lead in the last-16 tie, but a heavier defeat would have been harsh on Antonio Conte's side on the former Inter head coach's return to San Siro.

Rossoneri boss Pioli was content to be in front at the halfway stage in the clash, knowing the Premier League club will fancy their chances of coming from behind in London next month.

He told Mediaset: "It was a difficult, hard-fought match against a tough team. We played a good game, but we know how tough it will be. But tonight I'm satisfied."

Pioli added: "This performance will give us morale, but we have to be attentive, dynamic, ready. We've had a difficult month, but we're trying to overcome all the difficulties. I keep thinking and believing I'm coaching a truly special group."

Asked if he was disappointed not having a bigger lead, he replied: "Yes, for those two chances... De Ketelaere's and Thiaw's. But they, too, put us in difficulty and there are many positive aspects.

"It was only the first stage and the second will be even more difficult."

Related items

  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive appearance for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a loose ball to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded strike, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's half-cleared left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

  • Premier League opening weekend: Who has the toughest start? Premier League opening weekend: Who has the toughest start?

    The Premier League fixtures were announced on Tuesday, with the new season now just under two months away.

    Holders Manchester City, chasing a fifth consecutive Premier League title, have a tough opener against Chelsea, now managed by Enzo Maresca, at Stamford Bridge on August 18.

    City have won their opening fixture in 12 of the last 13 seasons, though the only exception was a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in 2021-22.

    Meanwhile, Chelsea will begin a top-flight season against the reigning champions for the first time in 53 years, losing to Arsenal in their last such fixture in 1971 (3-0).

    Manchester United and Fulham will kick off the season at Old Trafford on August 16, with the Red Devils becoming the first Premier League side in history to start eight consecutive seasons on home soil.

    Brentford and West Ham are tipped to have the toughest starts, with their opponents' average rating at 89.6 on Opta's team rating scale – both sides face Pep Guardiola's side in their opening five matches.

    Arsenal and Ipswich Town sit joint-third behind them, with their first five fixtures averaging at 88.7.

    After narrowly missing out to City in the title race in the last two seasons, Arsenal begin their campaign at home to Wolves but face tricky tests against Aston Villa, Tottenham and the Citizens in the following weeks.

    Ipswich begin their first Premier League campaign for 22 years against the side they ended their last one against. They will travel to Anfield for Arne Slot's first match in charge of Liverpool, before hosting the reigning champions a week later.

    The Reds show as having the easiest opening of the 20 sides, with an average opponent rating of 83.7, with a trip to Old Trafford against rivals United the most notable match in their first five fixtures.

    Southampton's return to the top-flight comes at St. James' Park, but among teams to have played in 10 or more Premier League seasons, the Saints have the lowest win ratio (8 per cent), having won just two of their 24 games (D10 L12).

    Everton will kick off their final season at Goodison Park at home against Brighton – the Toffees have started the last two campaigns with defeats on home soil against Chelsea and Fulham, and have not lost three in a row since a run of four between 2008-09 and 2011-12.

    The opening weekend will be rounded off by Tottenham's trip to the other promoted side, Leicester City, who will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run when starting a league campaign at home (they have won six and drawn three of the previous nine).

  • Tadic tips 'hungry' Bellingham to 'win next Ballon d'Or' Tadic tips 'hungry' Bellingham to 'win next Ballon d'Or'

    Jude Bellingham "has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or", Serbia skipper Dusan Tadic insisted after his side fell victim to England's star midfielder.

    Bellingham was the hero with his first-half header ensuring Gareth Southgate's side got off to a winning start at Euro 2024, as they edged out the Eagles 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

    The Real Madrid midfielder built on the momentum from his memorable debut season with Los Blancos, for whom he scored 23 goals and helped win LaLiga and the Champions League.

    The second player after Michael Owen to score at the World Cup and European Championship before turning 21, he is also the first to do so for the Three Lions while playing his club football outside of England.

    And Tadic, who appeared as a second-half substitute in Serbia's first match at the European Championship as a unified nation, paid tribute to the 20-year-old.

    When asked whether he thought Bellingham was the difference in the Group C contest, the Eagles skipper told reporters: "Yes, definitely. I think he is a great player and a great personality. I think he has everything to win the next Ballon d'Or.

    "I think everything that he did was great today, he showed personality, he took England to the next level. He was always asking for the ball and I think he had a great game.

    "What I think is most important for such a young player is that he always takes responsibility. That is amazing to see, and you can see he is very hungry."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.