Pioli revels in Milan replicating Champions League form against Lecce

By Sports Desk April 23, 2023

Stefano Pioli hailed Milan for replicating their strong Champions League showings in Serie A after Sunday's victory over Lecce arrested a slump in domestic form.

Milan had won just one of their last six league games, denting their hopes of a top-four finish, but overcame Lecce 2-0 at San Siro after a Rafael Leao double.

The Rossoneri sit level on points with fourth-placed Roma, who visit Atalanta on Monday, while they trail Juventus by three after the Bianconeri's 15-point deduction was reversed this week.

Their struggles in the Italian top flight were in stark contrast to Champions League performances, having reached the last four for the first time since 2007 after a 2-1 aggregate win over Serie A leaders Napoli.

Pioli revealed his message to his Milan players before the Lecce clash was a call to replicate their recent outings in Europe.

Asked by DAZN how the Milan coach motivated his side, Pioli said: "That it was important to start strong and important to bring Champions League performances onto the pitch.

"We did many good things, we need to improve others."

Pioli's side will meet fierce city rivals Inter in the Champions League last four, while the pair battle for a place in Italy's top four – Inter sat in sixth, two points behind Milan.

Simone Inzaghi's side were 3-0 victors at Empoli earlier on Sunday, although Pioli insisted that result had no bearing on Milan's motivation.

He added: "Before today there were 8 days left. I told the team that the next two would determine our final position.

"We will try to win as many games as possible, we are fine and we must continue to work at our best."

Leao was the chief problem for Lecce down the left-hand side throughout, heading home Sandro Tonali's cross for the opener before a fine individual run culminated in his second goal that went in off the right post.

The Milan winger has scored 12 league goals this season, his best return in a single campaign, while he became just the second Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo to hit the 10-goal mark in back-to-back Serie A campaigns – after Cristiano Ronaldo did so for Juventus in three seasons between 2018 and 2021.

After his fourth brace in the Italian top flight and first double at home in Serie A since September 2022 against Inter, Leao was more focused on the team's achievements.

"I always try to play a good game, helping my team-mates," he told DAZN. "The most important thing today was to win, we haven't done it in a long time in the league."

As for his own exploits, Leao added: "I was thinking about it even before the match that I had to score. It's always nice to score with these fans and I'm very happy."

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