In isolation, scrappy wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and AC Milan in the space of five days hardly scream significant moments in Juventus' season.

But it is the bold measure taken by Maurizio Sarri to achieve those victories that make this week seem particularly important in the wider picture for the Bianconeri and their legendary forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Needing a goal against Lokomotiv in midweek with the score locked at 1-1, Sarri made the audacious call to hook Ronaldo in the 82nd minute.

Juve huffed and puffed and finally blew the door down thanks to Douglas Costa in the third minute of added time.

After the game, Sarri insisted he made the decision because Ronaldo had been suffering with a knee injury in the build-up, a line he repeated after Sunday's game. The hunched shoulders, sullen face and refusal to shake his coach's hand suggested it was a decision that did not have the approval of the Portugal captain. 

It was an infinitely more drastic call against Milan on Sunday. Spare for a decent disguised pass into the area for Gonzalo Higuain and a long-range effort shortly before half-time, it was unquestionably another subdued performance from Ronaldo, who stormed straight down the tunnel after being withdrawn.

But to haul off one of the greatest goalscorers of all time after 55 minutes with your team needing a goal is brave at best, reckless at worst.

And yet, Sarri's decision was again entirely justified as Ronaldo's replacement Paulo Dybala jinked and weaved his way through the Milan defence and coolly picked out the bottom-left corner with 13 minutes left to play to seal a 1-0 victory.

What feels so pertinent about all this is the way Sarri is considering ordinary decisions for a player who throughout his career has been out of the ordinary.

It is worlds apart from the Sarri we saw nine months ago during the EFL Cup final, where his then Chelsea side were eventually beaten on penalties by Manchester City.

On that occasion, Sarri's authority was left in tatters by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's shocking act of insubordination when he seemingly refused to be substituted at Wembley.

The sight of a seething Sarri trudging down the tunnel, only to return to the dugout moments later was an uncomfortable one.

Perhaps that moment has instilled in Sarri a take-no-prisoners attitude that even a player of Ronaldo's history and calibre cannot escape. Perhaps he genuinely, and justifiably from the fact they won both games, felt others were more capable of earning his team the result. 

What is certain, is that none of Ronaldo's coaches during his record-breaking days at Real Madrid, regardless of personal relationship, would have had the nerve to make such calls.

Ronaldo has clashed with coaches who boast far superior records to the one major honour Sarri has won in his career and one wonders how long he is willing to accept being the fall guy if Juve continue struggling to fire.

But the fact remains whether you consider Sarri to be inspired, brave or reckless, ultimately the decision to replace Ronaldo in two straight games with his side chasing a goal has proven to be the right one.

And that absolutely seems like a significant moment.

Stefano Pioli rued AC Milan's profligacy in the 1-0 defeat to Juventus, especially given he felt his side "were at least on a par" with the Serie A leaders.

Milan put in one of their better performances of the season at Allianz Stadium but a mixture of questionable finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny proved the Rossoneri's undoing as substitute Paulo Dybala scored a 77th-minute winner.

Head coach Pioli was unable to hide his frustration and urged Milan to be more clinical following Sunday's loss in Turin.

"We were at least on a par with our opponents, if not more, but if you don't turn those chances into goals, you are going to pay," Pioli, whose side are 14th, told Sky Sport Italia in quotes reported by Football Italia.

"We've got to keep working and improving. Our current position is unworthy of Milan and that must keep us worried and concentrated at all times.

"Unfortunately, it's the same thing I said last Sunday after Lazio, which is that we had the opportunities and I don't think many have 15 shots on goal the way we did at the Juventus Stadium, but we need to convert more of them.

"We also conceded a goal when we should've been tighter in our defending and marking. I can only underline that the performance is good, but we need the results too. We have to improve our position in the table, it's time to take some punches and work hard.

"I see improvements every day, I saw them in recent matches, as we were by no means inferior to Lazio or Juventus. We must understand that at this level, every single ball can be decisive.

"We haven't had as many points as we expected, nor as many as we probably deserved lately, but the performances have been there."

Paulo Dybala vindicated Maurizio Sarri's decision to introduce him for the underwhelming Cristiano Ronaldo as the Argentina international clinched underwhelming Juventus a slender 1-0 win over AC Milan on Sunday.

Sarri's men were well below par for the visit of Stefano Pioli's Milan and Ronaldo was no different, as the Portugal star failed to inspire an Old Lady attack that looked bereft of creative ingenuity until matchwinner Dybala replaced the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Belying the form table, Milan looked considerably more fluent and inventive in attack during the opening 45 minutes, but questionable finishing and a wonderful save from Wojciech Szczesny prevented them going into half-time ahead.

Juve remained short of ideas going forward initially in the second period and that resulted in the withdrawal of Ronaldo – who was also hooked in the Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow.

While the Portugal captain looked utterly unimpressed as he headed straight down the tunnel, Dybala made the difference late on with a fine goal to retain Juve's status as Serie A pacesetters.

Milan should have taken the lead with 18 minutes on the clock, but Krzysztof Piatek miscued his header from Suso's excellent delivery from deep, before Szczesny thwarted Lucas Paqueta's nodded effort.

It took Ronaldo until the 42nd minute to threaten the Milan goal, but his 25-yard strike was easily kept out by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Sarri's response to Juve's ineffectiveness in front of goal was to withdraw Ronaldo for Dybala before the hour, while Douglas Costa – the hero in Wednesday's 2-1 win in Moscow – came on soon after.

The Brazilian went as close as any of his team-mates with a 30-yard strike that Donnarumma stopped, before Blaise Matuidi curled just off target.

But fittingly it was Dybala who got the decisive goal, as he played a one-two with Gonzalo Higuain on the edge of the box and then swept home right-footed 13 minutes from time, confirming an undeserved defeat for Milan, who have not won at Juve since March 2011.

What does it mean? Juve remain top as Ronaldo's mortality becomes clear

Inter's 2-1 comeback win against Hellas Verona put Antonio Conte's men top and that looked to be where they would stay until after the international break before Dybala's strike.

But arguably more signficant than the result is Ronaldo's status in the squad. Having spent much of his career as an untouchable, that no longer appears to be the case.

Szczesny gives Juve a hand

While Dybala was undoubtedly vital to victory, it is fair to say Juve owe much thanks to Szczesny in goal. The Poland international was dependable on every occasion and had he not been at this level Milan probably would have won.

Ronaldo fades into the background

With just one shot and a single key pass to show for his efforts, there is no doubt Ronaldo was not missed when he made way. Suddenly the hosts had more energy and impetus in attack, not usually something one could say about a team that hooks Ronaldo.

What's next?

After the international break, Juve face a tricky trip to Serie A's most prolific team Atalanta, while Milan host Napoli and former Rossoneri boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Maurizio Sarri is hopeful Cristiano Ronaldo will feature for Juventus against AC Milan, though conceded the forward may miss out with a knee problem.

Ronaldo was substituted off with eight minutes of normal time remaining in Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow, as Gonzalo Higuain's last-gasp effort secured a 2-1 win.

Juve return to Serie A action against struggling Milan, who sit 12th - with new coach Stefano Pioli having managed just one win from four matches in charge.

Asked for an update on Ronaldo's fitness on Saturday, Sarri revealed he is still uncertain if the former Real Madrid star - who has six goals in all competitions this season - will be able to play.

"How is Ronaldo? I still don't know, because yesterday he was with the physiotherapists and we will see today and tomorrow in the last training session," Sarri told a news conference.

"Let's see what he can do. He feels a little pain in his knee but it is nothing serious."

Ronaldo looked set to open the scoring for Juve in midweek when his free-kick squirmed out of Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme's grasp, only for Aaron Ramsey to ensure the ball went over the line.

It brought up Juve's 300th Champions League goal, as well as marking a second strike of the season for Ramsey, who has been restricted to eight appearances.

Sarri, however, is looking forward to having what he sees as a crucial player more readily available.

"He has important technical qualities and can do both the roles I ask," Sarri said of Ramsey.

"He can be a modern midfielder. He can be an offensive midfielder, as an attacking midfielder he can also give cover."

Sarri has previously aired his frustrations with some profligate finishing from Juve this term, but the ex-Chelsea coach has been pleased with his side's ability to push for late winners.

"The fact is that the team is still unable to close out games," Sarri said. "The strength, however, is that until the end we go to look for the victory and often we succeed.

"Milan is a good team, which did not make a good start to the season. In football there are cycles; rebuilding to get back to a very high level is not easy. Milan have many young players and they are laying the foundations for an important future." 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a "great player" but Stefano Pioli is unsure if the striker will return to AC Milan.

The 38-year-old's contract with MLS side LA Galaxy expires at the end of the year and he has been linked with a move back to European football.

MLS commissioner Don Garber claimed this week Ibrahimovic is "being recruited" by Milan, where he spent two seasons before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012.

Milan have been tipped to strengthen their squad in January following a poor start to the campaign, but Pioli was unwilling to confirm Ibrahimovic is a target.

"Ibra is a great player," he told a news conference on Saturday. "But the January market is far away. There will be time to make assessments."

Milan have won one of their four matches under Pioli, who was brought in to replace Marco Giampaolo last month.

The 18-time Serie A champions are in the bottom half of the table after 11 matches and travel to Juventus on Sunday.

Despite the 16-point gap to champions Juve, however, Pioli has full faith in his players and is relishing the chance to pick up a potentially season-defining result.

"I trust my players, even if the table says we are far away from Juventus," he said. 

"Matches start from 0-0, 11 players against 11. It's a great challenge, but the big challenges also mean having a great opportunity.

"Talking about turning points is always difficult. It is clear that on a mental level, doing well tomorrow would mean a lot for us. 

"It's a difficult challenge but a great opportunity, one that we need to be ready to fight for."

Ronaldo has failed to find the net in three of his past four outings, but Pioli is well aware of the Juve forward's capabilities.

"It is difficult to say how to stop him," he said. "He has many chances to hurt teams. We are talking about a phenomenon, a champion.

"Against him we must be much more careful and determined, giving him little space to work in. He is among the best players ever, alongside [Lionel] Messi, Pele and [Diego] Maradona."

Franck Kessie, Samu Castillejo, Mateo Musacchio and Fabio Borini are all out of Milan's squad to face Juve, but Suso returns after missing the 2-1 loss to Lazio last weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain have identified their priorities and an extension for Neymar is seemingly not among them.

Neymar, 27, reportedly almost left the Ligue 1 champions in the close season amid strong links to LaLiga giants Barcelona.

The Brazil international is contracted until 2022 and PSG appear to be in no rush to extend his stay.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STOP NEYMAR TALKS AMID MBAPPE FOCUS

PSG's negotiations with Neymar about a contract extension have stalled, according to L'Equipe.

However, the report says PSG have not ruled out a potential extension for Neymar in the future.

It comes amid talk the club are eager to re-sign Kylian Mbappe, who is also contracted until 2022 and has been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Like Neymar and Mbappe, the talk around Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba will not go away. Sport reports Juventus want to bring the midfielder back to Turin, while Tuttosport says Pogba is also eager to return to the Serie A giants.

- Ivan Rakitic has made just one start for Barcelona this season and the midfielder could be on the move in January. Mundo Deportivo reports Juventus and Inter have the Croatia international – who is contracted at Camp Nou until 2021 – in their sights.

- Nicolo Zaniolo's impressive performances for Roma are leading to renewed interest in his services. Juventus are ready to pay more than €40million for the midfielder, according to CalcioMercato, although Roma are eager to keep Zaniolo, who has scored three Serie A goals this season.

- Unai Emery is under fire at Arsenal and the Premier League club are already eyeing his replacement. Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers is being earmarked for the job at Emirates Stadium, according to The Sun.

- Staying at Arsenal and AC Milan are considering a €40m (£34.5m) move for midfielder Lucas Torreira in January, according to Fichajes.com. Meanwhile, Turkish-Football reports Arsenal have made contact with the representatives of Juventus defender Merih Demiral about a potential move.

- Alessandro Florenzi could make a move from Roma in January, according to CalcioMercato. Fiorentina and Inter are reportedly interested in the right-back.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is "being recruited by AC Milan", according to Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.

The 38-year-old has spent the past 18 months in MLS, but his contract with LA Galaxy expires in December and he has been linked with a return to European football.

Ibrahimovic played for Milan for two seasons before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012 and Garber has suggested a return is on the cards.

"Zlatan is such an interesting guy," he told ESPN. "He keeps my hands full and my inbox full, but he's a thrill-a-minute. 

"You need to have those guys that break through the clutter like [David] Beckham did in our early days. He is a 38-year-old guy who is being recruited by AC Milan, one of the top clubs in the world."

Ibrahimovic was named in the MLS Best XI in 2018 and 2019 after scoring a combined 53 goals, and Garber has not entirely ruled out the Swedish striker agreeing a new contract to stay in Los Angeles.

"He has almost set records for the number of goals he's scored in the last two years and is exciting on and off the field. 

"He keeps our hands full but I'd love to see him back - that's up to LA Galaxy. I've enjoyed the Zlatan moments, especially when he speaks to me in third person."

One star name may appear to be on his way out of MLS, but Garber hopes others will follow in the steps of Ibrahimovic, Beckham and Thierry Henry.

Beckham spent five years with Galaxy and is now the co-owner of new club Inter Miami, who will make their MLS debut in 2020.

Asked about Beckham's influence in luring others to America, Garber said: "We saw Henry come to this league because he had a conversation with Beckham five or six years ago.

"David is out there speaking to lots of players and, just as importantly, he is very involved in the academy down at Miami. 

"They are recruiting young players and their academy has been open for a year now with a team that's not playing until next year. They have a combination of young players and some international guys that David will bring in."

Raheem Sterling dreams of playing abroad and could be about to get his wish.

Real Madrid reportedly want to sign the Manchester City star after succeeding in their attempts to lure Eden Hazard from Chelsea.

To make the deal happen, the Spanish giants are ready to send Gareth Bale back to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – SANTIAGO BERNABEU CALLING FOR STERLING

China continues to loom as the likeliest escape route for Gareth Bale, but Real Madrid might just have a different destination in mind.

According to Sky Sports, Madrid are preparing to offer the Wales winger plus £70million in a bid to prise Raheem Sterling from Manchester City.

Whether the Premier League champions have any interest in 30-year-old Bale is another matter, while the long-term contract extension Sterling signed last November gives them a strong bargaining position.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh speculation linking Kylian Mbappe to Zinedine Zidane's Madrid will prompt Paris Saint-Germain to offer the France forward an enticing new deal worth around €40million per season, Le Parisien reports. Mbappe has just over two years left on his current contract.

PSG are not just busy attempting to tie down their own players. De Telegraaf claims the Ligue 1 champions are one of three clubs expressing interest in Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. Tottenham and Manchester United have also reportedly made contact with the 23-year-old's agent.

- Chelsea have identified several big-name January targets if their transfer ban is lifted at an appeal hearing later this month. Borussia Dortmund teenager Jadon Sancho, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Lyon striker Moussa Dembele are the primary targets according to The Telegraph, which also lists Ben Chilwell and Nathan Ake among the names interesting Frank Lampard.

- Rade Krunic, one of AC Milan's better performers in the weekend loss to Lazio, will not be allowed to leave the club on loan, despite Bosnia and Herzegovina boss Robert Prosinecki advising him to seek more playing time. Calciomercato say the recent Rossoneri signing is part of Stefano Pioli's plans and will be staying put at San Siro.

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes his side are moving in the right direction despite suffering a sixth loss in just 11 Serie A matches this season.

Lazio beat Milan 2-1 at San Siro on Sunday, Joaquin Correa's 83rd-minute winner proving decisive as the victors climbed to fourth in the standings.

Milan remained mired in midtable mediocrity, sitting 11th, and they are already eight points off the European places and 16 behind leaders Juventus.

Pioli only took over from Marco Giampaolo in October and feels the Rossoneri are getting better, even if results remain mixed.

"In my view, the team is improving," former Inter boss Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"Of course, for the table and the situation, it was important to win, but the performance was there tonight.

"We took a few risks in order to create danger for the opponents, matching them all the way to the end, and I believe we are on the right path now.

"All we can do is keep improving along these lines. I saw a team that fought hard for 95 minutes. I did not see a team that was struggling, afraid or let their heads drop.

"We do still make a lot of mistakes, such as passing when we should keep it, and vice versa, but I saw these players looking anxious and afraid when I arrived. I don't see that in them now."

Pioli also made a point of mentioning Rafael Leao, who he felt failed to impact the contest off the bench.

"I expected more from him tonight. When coming on, he was meant to give changes of pace, fresh energy, work with the team," he added.

"He has a lot of potential, but he absolutely has to do more. His contribution tonight was not up to his standards."

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi was happy with his side after they won a Serie A match at Milan for the first time since 1989.

"We won an important game, I think deservedly, against a side that in my view had a good performance but Lazio played very well and did everything to win," Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia.

"It wasn't easy after the equaliser but we wanted to break this 30-year taboo, especially as we won here last season in the Coppa Italia semi-final.

"I told my players we needed more hunger and determination than Milan."

Ciro Immobile scored his 100th Lazio goal in the victory, which helped the capital club move above Atalanta in the table and within one point of third-placed rivals Roma.

Goals from Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile helped Lazio to a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Sunday that saw them climb to fourth in the Serie A table.

The victory was Lazio's first away from home against Milan in Serie A since September 1989, ending a 29-match winless run in the fixture.

Immobile's 100th Lazio goal put the capital club in the lead but mid-table Milan quickly levelled after Krzysztof Piatek's flick was diverted into his own net by Bastos.

After an end-to-end first half, both sides struggled for momentum after the interval and it took an exquisite pass from Luis Alberto to set up Lazio's winner.

The Spaniard cleverly found Correa and he did the rest, charging into the penalty area to slot an 83rd-minute winner.

Immobile started the match with 12 Serie A goals this season - two more than Milan - and after starting brightly, he hit the crossbar with a curling 22nd-minute effort.

The prolific striker was not to be denied and gave Lazio the lead with a superb glancing header from Manuel Lazzari's terrific cross from the right.

Lazio were more than deserving of their lead but were pegged back in the 28th minute through Bastos' own goal, and Milan were inches away from taking the lead when Hakan Calhanoglu's corner caught goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha off guard and nearly crept in.

Goalmouth action was minimal after the break but Lazio thought they had won a penalty after a challenge from Theo Hernandez on Lazzari. Referee Gianpaolo Calvarese was not interested, though.

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was alert to keep out a good Francesco Acerbi effort, too, as Lazio pressed for a match-winning goal.

And it came seven minutes from time when Alberto picked out Correa and the Argentina international calmly scored his third goal in five matches.

What it means

While Lazio moved up to fourth, Milan's indifferent start to the season is shown by the fact they sit 11th, already 16 points behind league leaders Juventus.

Immobile's milestone night

The Lazio striker showed why he is Serie A's top scorer with another terrific performance. Immobile's movement for his first-half header was outstanding, the forward cleverly creating space with a darting run before heading home in style. He could have easily scored more than once and linked superbly with the equally sharp Luis Alberto.

Tears of frustration

Milan midfielder Samuel Castillejo looked lively and creative in the early stages. The 24-year-old is pushing to be a first-team regular for Milan but was forced off with injury in the 36th minute and he was emotional as a result.

What's next?

Lazio host Celtic in a crucial UEFA Europa League fixture on Thursday, while Milan have all week to prepare for a tricky trip to Juventus on Sunday.

Goals from Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile helped Lazio to a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Sunday that saw them climb to fourth in the Serie A table.

Immobile's 100th Lazio goal put the capital club in the lead but mid-table Milan quickly levelled after Krzysztof Piatek's flick was diverted into his own net by Bastos.

After an end-to-end first half, both sides struggled for momentum after the interval and it took an exquisite pass from Luis Alberto to set up Lazio's winner.

The Spaniard cleverly found Correa and he did the rest, charging into the penalty area to slot an 83rd-minute winner.

AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli has told his players to have faith in themselves if they are to turn their around their flagging Serie A campaign.

Suso's 63rd-minute free-kick earned Milan a 1-0 win over SPAL at San Siro on Thursday, giving Pioli the first victory of his fledgling reign at the third attempt.

A fourth win of the season lifted the Rossoneri into the top half of the division, six points adrift of a Champions League qualification berth.

Milan host fifth-place Lazio on Sunday and have tough games against Juventus and Napoli before the end of the month, but Pioli is looking up the table rather than down.

"We have to have belief," he told Sky Sport Italia. "If you believe in something, it becomes possible and you commit yourself day and night to obtain it.

"This has to be our attitude. We will see at the end of the season, but we must show spirit and determination."

Asked if victory against champions Juventus next week would act as a turning point in the season, Pioli said: "In the minds of the players, I think so. 

"Beating a very strong team would increase our confidence. But first we have to beat Lazio to improve our position, then we will prepare for the match against Juventus."

Pioli's coaching methods have gone down well with Milan's players, Lucas Paqueta this week admitting to being "confused" by former boss Marco Giampaolo's tactics.

"I have confidence in all my players and put them in the right positions to express their quality," Pioli said. "I adapt to the characteristics of my players."

AC Milan have to be realistic about their league position and accept they have not been good enough this season, boss Stefano Pioli has admitted.

The Rossoneri have won three of their opening nine Serie A matches and are just three points above the relegation zone ahead of Thursday's home clash with SPAL.

Pioli was brought in to replace Marco Giampaolo earlier this month but has collected only one point from a possible six.

Milan followed up a 2-2 draw with Lecce in Pioli's first match with a 2-1 loss to Roma on Sunday and the head coach has acknowledged his players have to start giving more on the pitch.

"We have to be realistic and admit this is not a positive moment for us, but we are better than what we showed on Sunday," he said at Wednesday's pre-match news conference.

"There's time to improve our standings and I want people who are fired up, motivated and want to prove themselves. If we are in this position, it means we've made mistakes. I need to see players who won't hold back.

"It's important to take it one game at a time, with the right battling spirit. We want to be the best when it comes to spirit and determination.

"If anyone has fears, it's time to put them to one side. There is much to be done, but if we believe in ourselves, then anything is possible."

Suso has been ever-present for Milan this term and has recently been criticised for a string of below-par displays, but Pioli has again defended the under-fire winger.

"I have no doubts on Suso’s quality. It's wrong to blame all of Milan's difficulties on just one player. Everyone must give more," he said.

"We want to build out from the back, but the problem against Roma was the lack of movement, which meant we had few passing options open for team-mates. We need to be more concentrated and make the right choice at the right time.

"The fans are not stupid - they can tell when a team is playing with the right spirit and effort. It's up to us to get the fans on our side. Playing good football represents an advantage, but if there's a characteristic we need in these next few games, it's spirit."

Rafael Leao has started both matches under Pioli but Krzysztof Piatek, a second-half substitute against Lecce and Roma, could return to the fold.

Hinting at a change from the 4-3-3 system he has used so far, Pioli said: "I chose Rafael against Roma and frankly expected more from him in that game. They could play together. I have to make the right choices at this moment for the team.

"I've never been wedded to a single tactical system in my career, so anything is possible. It's all about understanding the main characteristics of the squad and putting the strongest players in their best positions."

Stefano Pioli acknowledged he expected more from AC Milan after taking just one point from his opening two Serie A matches in charge of the Rossoneri.

Having drawn 2-2 against Lecce in Pioli's first match, Milan went down 2-1 to Roma on Sunday as Davide Calabria's error gifted Nicolo Zaniolo a winner.

Calabria's introduction in place of the struggling Andrea Conti had looked a masterstroke by former Inter boss Pioli three minutes earlier, when the full-back crossed for Theo Hernandez to cancel out Edin Dzeko's opener.

Although Pioli already seems to have imprinted an improved attacking philosophy on the Rossoneri since replacing Marco Giampaolo, the results are yet to follow, and Milan's coach did not hide his frustration.

"I expected more, yes. Over the two games, we frankly gave our contribution to the failed victories," Pioli told Sky Sports Italia.

"We made mistakes that were too obvious for a club of our status. We had done well enough in the first half and ran few risks, but the game would've been more in our favour had we not given away that goal.

"There's no point denying it, the situation is negative right now and we keep making clear errors. The most evident errors were on the two goals, but they weren't the only ones.

"I saw the performance as a step backwards compared to the Lecce game last week. If the ball moves slowly from the back, it becomes difficult to create any spaces.

"With a little more focus and concentration, we could've kept the match in the balance for longer. We were imprecise and paid the price for that."

Despite being annoyed by Milan's sloppiness, Pioli added he has no questions over the squad's attitude.

"I don't think we lacked determination, but we made too many wrong decisions and that is costly against a side on the same level as you," he said.

"We needed to play better on a technical level, with more precise passing, and we just didn't do that.

"I believe we have the quality to be more dangerous in attack than we were and to be more solid than we were. At this level, the games are in the balance and the slightest detail can make the difference.

"I don't believe we were negative or lacking in courage, but we conceded goals in avoidable situations."

Stefano Pioli's wait for his first win as AC Milan coach continues after Davide Calabria's error gifted Roma a 2-1 victory in Sunday's Serie A encounter.

Having come on shortly after half-time, right-back Calabria made an immediate impact when he teed up Theo Hernandez's equaliser in the 55th minute at Stadio Olimpico.

Hernandez's effort cancelled out Edin Dzeko's first-half opener, but Calabria ruined his good work when his loose ball enabled Nicolo Zaniolo to restore Roma's lead.

Gianluca Mancini's poor miss kept Milan's hopes alive but their new coach failed to inspire a comeback as the Rossoneri remain entrenched in the mid-table.

Milan had the better of the opening stages, Franck Kessie's slide-rule pass splitting Roma's defence in the 16th minute, but Lucas Paqueta strayed offside before drilling under Pau Lopez.

Javier Pastore failed to capitalise on a Kessie error soon after, though Dzeko made no such mistake in the 38th minute, heading home unmarked at the far post after a corner was flicked on.

Pastore would have doubled Roma's lead before the break if not for Gianluigi Donnarumma's fantastic save, and Milan's goalkeeper was left rooted to the spot when Chris Smalling sent a close-range header wide.

Smalling's frustration was compounded when he deflected Hernandez's volley beyond Lopez after Milan's left-back connected with Calabria's cross.

Parity lasted just three minutes, however - Dzeko pouncing on Calabria's slack pass to turn provider for Zaniolo, who coolly whipped a low finish into the left corner.

Mancini should have doubled Roma's advantage with a free header, but Milan could not make their hosts pay for the midfielder's profligacy, with Hakan Calhanoglu missing a pair of late attempts to draw level.

 

What does it mean? Pioli's tenure yet to lift off

Marco Giampaolo oversaw a 2-1 comeback victory over Genoa in his final outing as Milan coach, as it appeared the former Sampdoria boss had finally found a winning formula.

But Milan elected to cut his spell short over the international break and take a punt on Pioli. Although the Rossoneri's football has been more incisive, their soft defence has left the ex-Inter coach with just one point from his first two matches.

Clinical Dzeko shows Milan what they are missing

Roma's number nine had failed to score in his three previous outings in all competitions but was in the right place at the right time to nose Paulo Fonseca's side ahead on Sunday.

With Krzysztof Piatek failing to recapture last season's form in 2019-20 and Rafael Leao still learning his trade, what Milan would give to have a striker of Dzeko's pedigree leading their line.

Calabria suffers a swift fall from grace

Pioli's call to replace the struggling Andrea Conti quickly paid dividends when Calabria provided an exceptional cross into Hernandez. However, he went from super-sub to a dud when he tried a risky pass which was easily cut out by Dzeko ahead of Zaniolo's strike.

What's next?

Roma visit Udinese on Wednesday, while Milan are in action against struggling SPAL a day later.

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