Milan were held to a goalless draw after a wasteful display meant the champions picked up just a point away at winless Cremonese in Serie A on Tuesday.

Stefano Pioli's side dominated the first half, though a magnificent performance from Cremonese goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi kept out efforts from Divock Origi and Junior Messias.

Origi saw a goal disallowed in the second half and despite some late pressure, the hosts clung on to pick up just their seventh point of the season.

Milan cut Napoli's lead at the top to eight points, but just a draw against such a lowly side will be frustrating for Pioli's men as they lose pace on the table-toppers.

The Rossoneri controlled possession early on, but struggled to create anything clear-cut until Brahim Diaz poked Messias' cross wide after 23 minutes.

They had an even better chance soon after when Origi was slipped through on goal by Ante Rebic, though the former Liverpool striker's low shot was saved by Carnesecchi.

More impressive work from Carnesecchi was required soon after, first diving to his right to palm away Malick Thiaw's header from a corner, before a smart stop to deny Messias ensured Cremonese made it to the break level.

Origi thought he had broken the Cremonese resistance 11 minutes into the second half, but his sliding finish was ruled out by VAR after he was adjudged to be offside.

Rafael Leao was then thwarted by Carnesecchi as Milan pressed for a winner, but they could not find one as they were forced to settle for a point.

Stefano Pioli believes the character of his Milan side is "second to none" after the reigning Serie A champions secured a late win against Spezia on Saturday.

Olivier Giroud came off the bench at San Siro to score an 89th-minute winner in the 2-1 victory, though was then sent off for a second booking after removing his shirt while celebrating.

Pioli was full of praise for the mental strength of his team after the win, which took Milan up to second and back to within six points of league leaders Napoli after the latter beat Atalanta.

"Our mentality is to believe in what we do," he told Sky. "As far as character is concerned, we are second to none."

Theo Hernandez put Milan in front with a first-half volley from close range, only for Daniel Maldini - son of Milan legend and technical director Paolo - to equalise against his parent club with Spezia's first away goal of the season.

Maldini's goal came 5,333 days after his father's last one at San Siro in March 2008.

Pioli did not seem to mind Maldini scoring, particularly because his team eventually secured the win, and declared that his father was able to experience the best of both worlds, with his son scoring and his team winning.

"Daniel Maldini's goal? It was the perfect evening for Paolo," the Rossoneri head coach joked.

"The match was difficult, we made it complicated... I liked the first half, [but] we have to work to close the game early."

On Giroud's red, with the French striker later claiming he had forgotten he was on a yellow card, Pioli said: "He is a very strong guy, and I am very happy with his performances.

"Tonight, he was naive."

Stefano Pioli wants to see Milan enjoy a deep run in the Champions League after the Rossoneri sealed their progress from Group E in emphatic fashion.

A defeat to Salzburg on Wednesday would have seen Milan crash out, but there was never any danger of that at San Siro as Olivier Giroud scored a double and added assists for Rade Krunic and Junior Messias in a 4-0 triumph that sealed second place in the group, behind Chelsea.

Pioli, who signed a contract extension earlier this week, was delighted with his team's performance as they qualified for the knockout stages for the first time since 2013-14, though he wants his players to kick on and reach the later rounds of the competition.

"This is only the first step," Pioli told reporters. "We must not stop mentally.

"We must not be happy to have reached the second round, but aim to go further. This group is hungry and wants to do everything possible and even more.

"We are the Italian champions, we are not here by chance. I have strong players, whoever draws us will face a strong team."

At 36, Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League double for Milan since Filippo Inzaghi did so against Real Madrid in 2010, with the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker also setting up Milan's other two goals.

Since Opta have collected such data for the Champions League (from 2003-04), Giroud is the third-oldest player to both score and assist a goal in a match, after Didier Drogba for Chelsea v Schalke in 2014 and Edin Dzeko for Inter v Viktoria Plzen this season, and Pioli was enthused by the France international's performance. 

"He is a strong person, a great leader and a great worker," Pioli told Sky Sports.

"He does what a player of his level has to do. He is a point of reference. He is always smiling and motivated. He is helping us a lot to grow up."

Olivier Giroud scored twice and assisted two others as Milan sealed their place in the Champions League knockout stages with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Salzburg at San Siro on Wednesday.

Milan knew a point would be enough to secure their progression and Giroud's early headed finish set them on their way.

Giroud's brilliant assist allowed Rade Krunic to get on the scoresheet shortly after half-time before the former Chelsea striker fired home a loose ball in the box.

Junior Messias added further gloss late on as Milan registered consecutive Champions League wins for the first time since 2011 and eased into the knockout stages at Salzburg's expense.

Theo Hernandez almost put Milan in front inside three minutes but his low effort across goal hit the post and deflected wide.

The hosts took the lead after 14 minutes, Giroud powerfully nodding Sandro Tonali's corner into the back of the net with the help of sloppy Salzburg marking.

Giroud thought he had his second when he tapped home after Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn fumbled Hernandez's shot into his path, only for the offside flag to curtail his celebrations.

Krunic made it 2-0 just after half-time with an excellent header after Giroud deftly nodded Ante Rebic's delivery back across goal to set him up.

Giroud added another in the 57th minute, smashing home after the ball rebounded kindly to him in the box.

Rafael Leao should have scored a fourth for Milan when he was picked out with a superb Hernandez cross, but his first-time effort came back off the crossbar.

Substitute Messias' curled finish in injury-time was the final dagger to Salzburg's Champions League campaign, though, as Milan cruised through.

Stefano Pioli wanted to share the credit around after signing a contract extension to keep him as Milan coach until the end of the 2024-25 season.

Former Inter coach Pioli took over at Milan in 2019, and has overseen a rejuvenation in the Rossoneri's fortunes.

Having finished second in the 2020-21 campaign, Milan clinched their first Serie A title in 11 years last term.

Milan, who sit third in Serie A 12 games into this season, are also on the verge of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign. They need only to avoid defeat against Salzburg on Wednesday to join Chelsea in progressing from Group E.

When asked about signing his new deal in Tuesday's pre-match press conference, Pioli said: "The credit belongs to everyone. The club is giving me great confidence.

"I am very happy with the renewal. I thanked the players because without them this renewal would not have been possible.

"We started our three-year journey, now we really care about passing [our objectives for] the season.

"I really appreciated this. The club could have extended my contract by a year, but they did it with a longer time frame. 

"It is a sign of our vision, of our collaboration, to try to make Milan bigger and bigger. I really appreciated the renewal and I can only thank the owners. I have always felt appreciated."

The omens are promising for Milan, seven-time European champions, ahead of their meeting with Salzburg at San Siro, given they are unbeaten in all three of their previous encounters with the Austrian side.

They do come into the match on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Torino in Serie A, however, though Pioli – whose side lost successive matches to Chelsea before bouncing back with a 4-0 thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb – is confident Milan can get the job done.

"We are a strong team, we have values and a lot of motivation," he said. "We know the difficulties of the match. Salzburg have not lost away from home [in this season's Champions League].

"We have strong players and we play this match in front of our fans, I can tell you that we have all the right cards to do well.

"Doing well would mean a lot, we had our first goal clearly in mind. We built this possibility, it was conceivable that if we hadn't won a match with Chelsea the last one would have been decisive. 

"The team now knows how to manage these heavy commitments. We are disappointed, but now it's another game."

Stefano Pioli has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Milan until the end of the 2024-25 season.

The Rossoneri coach has been in position at San Siro since 2019, having previously taken charge of rivals Inter.

Pioli did not last long with the Nerazzurri, yet he has been a huge success with Milan, last season winning the Scudetto – their first since 2011.

The 57-year-old's deal was due to expire at the end of this campaign, but the club confirmed a two-year extension on Monday.

"Having begun this virtuous path, which led to the 2021-22 Serie A title, AC Milan and Stefano shall continue to work on this ambitious project, which reflects the club's history and values," a short statement added.

Pioli has won 87 of his 153 matches as Milan coach, with that 56.9 per cent win rate his best at any club.

Milan finished sixth in Serie A in Pioli's first season after he took over in the October, before jumping to second and then first in the subsequent campaigns.

Despite a shock defeat to Torino on Sunday, the Rossoneri are third this term.

Stefano Pioli insisted Milan were not distracted by Wednesday's decisive Champions League meeting with Salzburg during their demoralising Serie A loss to Torino.

Koffi Djidji and Aleksey Miranchuk scored in quick succession in the first half as Milan collapsed to a 2-1 defeat in Turin on Sunday.

Junior Messias got the Rossoneri back in the contest following a defensive mix-up after the break, but the Serie A champions never looked likely to complete a comeback on a chastening outing.

Milan will approach the European clash with Salzburg requiring just a point to join Chelsea in qualifying from Group E, but head coach Pioli is certain that was not on their minds.

"We could have done better in the flow of the ball, in defence and in attack. It was not the best evening," he said at his post-match press conference.

"To prepare well for the Champions League we had to do well tonight, we didn't think about it at all.

"We could have done better. It was a difficult and physical game, but we had to move better without the ball. You have to go looking for the chances, and you have to exploit them. They succeeded, with two goals in a few minutes.

"In the second half, we had a different attitude, but we didn't score immediately. The match went on the tracks preferred by Torino."

Djidji's opener halted a 499-minute streak in which Torino had not scored in their Serie A meetings with Milan, while the Rossoneri saw a 17-game unbeaten run on the road in Serie A come to an end.

Milan's frustrations were summed up by the efforts of Rafael Leao, who approached the trip to Turin in excellent form but was hauled off at the break after a poor opening period.

The Portugal forward failed to hit the target with four shots amounting to 0.51 expected goals (xG) during his 45-minute outing, leading Pioli to confirm he was substituted due to his poor display.

"It was not his best evening, this is evident," Pioli told DAZN after the defeat. "I tried to change the attack, but we needed to take a chance a little earlier, to play a little earlier, and we did not manage to get it back."

Milan failed to move back within three points of Serie A leaders Napoli as goals from Koffi Djidji and Aleksey Miranchuk condemned the Rossoneri to a surprise 2-1 loss to Torino.

Miranchuk followed up Djidji's glancing header with a cultured left-footed finish as Torino scored twice in two frantic first-half minutes to stun Milan at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.

Stefano Pioli's men travelled to Turin looking to stay within touching distance of the Serie A summit, but were uncharacteristically lethargic for long periods on Sunday.

Junior Messias was gifted a goal following a bizarre mix-up at the back, but Milan failed to build on that strike late on as Torino clung on for a huge win.

Rafael Leao missed two golden chances in the first six minutes, sending a wild volley over after breaking in behind before mishitting his shot after being teed up by Brahim Diaz.

Torino punished Milan for their wastefulness 10 minutes before the break, as Djidji nodded Valentino Lazaro's deep free-kick in off the right-hand post.

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the champions as Miranchuk latched onto Nikola Vlasic's knock-down before shifting the ball onto his left foot and finishing coolly across Tatarusanu. 

Sergino Dest fired over from range as Milan attempted to lift the tempo after the break, before Messias ensured a tense finish when he curled home following a clash between Vanja Milinkovic-Savic and Perr Schuurs.

Torino boss Ivan Juric was dismissed for berating referee Rosario Abisso following that goal, but his team showed greater composure to see out the closing stages in relative comfort.

What does it mean? Rossoneri fall short

Although the likes of Napoli and Atalanta have made headlines in Serie A by emerging as surprise pacesetters, Milan had begun their title defence in solid fashion, stretching their unbeaten away run to 17 league games ahead of Sunday's contest (W12 D5).

Milan had also kept five consecutive clean sheets in league meetings with Torino prior to this game, but they saw both of those records fall by the wayside after a quickfire double from their hosts, who richly deserved the win following a disciplined performance.

Djidji ends barren run

To say Torino have struggled against Milan in recent meetings would be an understatement: Djidji's opener ended a 499-minute run in which Torino had failed to find the net against Milan in Serie A meetings.

Their previous goal against the Rossoneri in the competition was scored by Andrea Belotti in September 2019, and prior to Sunday's game, no player in Torino's current squad had scored a league goal against Milan.

Leao kept quiet

Leao has emerged as the most obvious goal threat in an exciting Milan team, having recorded nine league goal contributions (five goals, four assists) ahead of the trip to Turin.

However, the Portugal attacker was hauled off at the break after a disappointing first half in which he squandered chances amounting to 0.51 expected goals (xG) and failed to hit the target with any of his four attempts.

What's next?

Milan host Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday, needing to avoid defeat to reach the last 16. Torino, meanwhile, go to Bologna in Serie A next Sunday.

Stefano Pioli believes Milan are capable of going beyond the 85-point mark in Serie A and insists that is the target as a title battle with Napoli looms.

There are other teams who could also be a factor, but Napoli are the side who have made a flying start, and defending champions Milan were their closest challengers heading into this weekend.

The Rossoneri head coach says it is not essential that his team head the table when the World Cup break comes around next month, but he is wary of letting Napoli build any sort of substantial lead.

Luciano Spalletti's team have already beaten Milan this season, which remains the only league defeat suffered by Pioli's men through 11 rounds of games.

On Sunday, Milan head to Torino, and they only managed a goalless draw in the corresponding game last season.

With only three more Serie A matchdays remaining after this weekend before the World Cup leads to a seven-week pause, Pioli wants Milan to go into the interval on a high.

"We started at the beginning of the season with two objectives: to be as advanced as possible in the league on November 13 and to overcome the group in the Champions League," Pioli said.

Milan will have achieved the second of those aims if they avoid defeat to Salzburg at San Siro on Wednesday, as the games come thick and fast.

"We have many important games in a few days, but the team are doing well," Pioli said. "I have players who are available and strong.

"I will field those who I consider appropriate to win these challenges. Tomorrow is the most important, we are prepared to face it in the best possible way.

"We need to score as many points as possible. It will not be decisive to be first on November 13, but you have to get above 85 points. The more games you win now, the better."

It is not always the case, but passing 85 points is usually enough to land a Scudetto. The last team to top that mark but miss out on the title were Napoli in the 2017-18 season, when they posted 91 but finished four points behind Juventus.

Milan accumulated 86 points last term to pip Inter by two points.

Torino sit 10th in the table, and Pioli said Milan would need to show "quality and personality" on Sunday, predicting heavy pressure from the hosts.

"We want to give continuity by looking for a streak of results as long as possible. Napoli are doing very well and winning on Sunday would be important," Pioli said.

Brahim Diaz, who scored twice in the 4-1 win over Monza last weekend before being substituted with a muscle injury, has been passed fit for the game in Turin.

Stefano Pioli will set his Milan side out to qualify for the Champions League round of 16 in style by beating Salzburg in a decisive San Siro showdown next week.

The Rossoneri moved above Salzburg into second place in Group E on Tuesday with a 4-0 demolition of Dinamo Zagreb at Stadion Maksimir.

Matteo Gabbia opened the scoring with his first Milan goal, heading in a Sandro Tonali free-kick, and the Serie A champions ran away with it in the second half.

Rafael Leao's solo strike doubled their lead, and Olivier Giroud added a third from the penalty spot before a bizarre Robert Ljubicic own goal completing the scoring, with Dinamo's hopes of qualifying emphatically dashed.

Milan now only need a point to advance along with group winners Chelsea, who beat Salzburg 2-1, but head coach Pioli will not be taking a cautious approach to such a crucial game against the champions of Austria at San Siro next Wednesday.

He said: "Two out of three results are not a double-edged sword. We are not mentally and tactically built to manage, we have to play our best to get the win."

The Rossoneri finished bottom of their group last season, and Pioli believes reaching the last 16 would show the strides they have made.

He added: "I think it is clear that our growth comes from qualification. We have to play with our mentality, and it is the next step, where we would show that we are doing better than last year.

"We must close the discussion next Wednesday without forgetting the championship. We need concentration for the league match against Torino [on Sunday]. Then we will have the time and attention necessary to take care of the next Champions League match in the best possible way."

Pioli praised centre-back Gabbia, who was rock solid at the heart of the Milan defence after coming in to replace the suspended Fikayo Tomori.

"I continue to be convinced of the strength of my group," he said. "I emphasise Matteo's seriousness, but also his skills. He has a sense of position, physicality and skill in aerial duels."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli conceded Charles De Ketelaere "has to do more", as the Belgian's slow start to life at San Siro continued.

The 21-year-old was a marquee addition in the pre-season transfer window, penning a five-year deal after the Serie A champions splashed a reported €36million to secure his services from Club Brugge.

Expectations were high after 14 goals and nine assists in Belgium's top flight last season, but he is yet to make such an impact in Milan, contributing just a single assist in his first 10 Serie A appearances.

Pioli has made it clear he is expecting more from the Belgian, who is likely to represent his nation at the World Cup.

"De Ketelaere has the quality to make an impact in our offensive play. He has to do more, he knows that too," Pioli told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He still needs time, but the will of the boy counts. If you play in a top club, like Milan, you absolutely have to accept this competition and you have to do every day better than your teammate to convince the coach."

In further comments made to DAZN after Saturday's 4-1 win over Monza, Pioli expressed his understanding that it is still early days, adding: "Charles has only been here for a few months. I had intended to only play him for 15 minutes this evening, but we had to rush it because of that injury [to Braham Diaz].

"He has the quality, he just needs to believe in himself to really bring that potential out. He’s an intelligent lad, he knows how good he is, but it is a process and will require some time with good and not so good performances to get there."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has continued to have a positive impact at Milan during his recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, according to Stefano Pioli. 

The 41-year-old, who has scored 33 goals in 60 league appearances in his second spell with the Rossoneri, underwent surgery in May.

Ibrahimovic's career appeared to be in danger at that time, but the Sweden great declared last month: "If I see a player stronger than me, I'll stop. But I haven't seen him yet."

While the striker is not expected to feature for the Scudetto holders until 2023, Pioli says he has been a "positive" figure around the Rossoneri squad during his layoff. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's Serie A meeting with Monza, Pioli said: "Zlatan, in everything he says and does, is never trivial. He is very intelligent.

"He knows how we want to play and how we prepare for matches, and he confronts me. His presence is positive.

"His recovery is still a little bit long. It will take some time to see him again on the pitch; it is nice, however, to see him here in Milanello, he is fine with the boys."

 

Milan have won seven of their first 10 games of a Serie A season as defending champions for the first time since 1992-93, when they retained the Scudetto, but they still sit three points adrift of leaders Napoli.

However, Pioli believes his side deserve to have won more points than they have, adding: "The calendar is completely different, compared to the first half of last year.

"In my opinion, we deserved to collect something more, like with Napoli [a 2-1 home loss last month], for example. Then there were some negative situations that need to be improved. Our level must always be high."

Pioli also offered an update on the condition of Mike Maignan following reports suggesting the France goalkeeper could miss the World Cup after suffering a setback in his battle against a calf injury.

"We are sorry for Mike," Pioli said. "We evaluated everything possible, he wanted to play in Verona [last Sunday], we had checked everything, but this injury will keep him out at least until January."

While the absence of Maignan would leave France lacking competition for Hugo Lloris between the sticks, French media reports have since claimed the 27-year-old could still recover in time to travel to Qatar, with Pioli's words said to be referring only to his club availability.

Milan's never-say-die attitude was the key to victory as Sandro Tonali's late goal gave the reigning champions a 2-1 away victory over Hellas Verona in Serie A.

That is the view of head coach Stefano Pioli, whose team went ahead within nine minutes when Rafael Leao's cross was turned into his own net by Miguel Veloso, but Verona were level soon after when Koray Gunter's shot deflected in off Matteo Gabbia.

With time running out, it appeared Milan would take just a point from the game, until Tonali swept home to secure a fourth straight league win for Pioli's side with eight minutes remaining. 

Milan move up to third in Serie A, crucially remaining just three points behind early leaders Napoli as they look to secure a second successive league title.

"[It was a] difficult game, we started well," said Pioli.

"Then we made a few mistakes too many, conceding too many chances. But as usual, the team was able to endure it and our qualities made us win the game."

When asked how positive he was feeling about his side ahead of a busy spell of fixtures, Pioli replied: "We have managed for the first time to win three consecutive games in this championship.

"We are growing, maybe I could have changed something more at the beginning, but we know how important this phase of the season is, and starting with a victory is the best way to face this period.

"They induced some mistakes with the pressure, we made some mistakes.

"But winning these difficult games means that we are growing mentally and in awareness, and that we never give up. This is a quality that my team has inside and knows how to bring out in the important moments."

Sunday's victory followed a midweek 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League, and Pioli acknowledged his team may have been struggling with fatigue despite the win over Verona.

"I know we can play better," Pioli added. "But the boys know it too.

"Character growth is important and allows us to overcome difficult obstacles like these.

"We hope to be able to recover some energy and even some players, an important period of competition awaits us. I'm not saying that they will be decisive for the whole season, but we are close."

Sandro Tonali fired a late winner as Milan earned a 2-1 away victory over Hellas Verona to climb to third in Serie A and stay in touch with early leaders Napoli.

Stefano Pioli's visitors got themselves ahead early on when Rafael Leao's cross was diverted by Miguel Veloso into his own net, though the lead lasted just 10 minutes as Koray Gunter's shot came off Matteo Gabbia and nestled in the back of the net.

It looked as if Milan would have to settle for a draw until Tonali's cool finish in the 81st minute proved decisive.

Milan's fourth successive Serie A victory over Verona moves them up to third, just three points behind leaders Napoli as Pioli's men look to retain their title.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli refused to discuss Fikayo Tomori's controversial red card after the Champions League defeat to Chelsea, stating "it seems too obvious to me".

The Rossoneri suffered their fifth successive home loss against English opposition in the competition as first-half goals from Jorginho and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled the Group E clash at San Siro.

However, the pendulum swung firmly in Chelsea's favour in the 18th minute when former Blues defender Tomori was shown a straight red card by referee Daniel Siebert following a tangle with Mason Mount in the box with the England international through on goal.

Tomori had fallen on to the wrong side of Mount, though may feel hard done by after the Chelsea forward managed to stay on his feet and fire a shot at goal, leaving Pioli frustrated by the decision.

"The game began, and the feeling was to be able to play a good game," Pioli told Mediaset. "Then, [the] penalty and dismissal changed everything, Chelsea did not need to play in numerical superiority.

"I don't want to review the episode, it seems too obvious to me. I do not want to comment. I told the referee what I think; I don't even speak such fluent English, but I think he understood."

Defender Pierre Kalulu concurred that the whole complexion of the contest turned on the incident as Milan missed the opportunity to move top of the group.

"If Mount gets to score the goal, I don't know if the referee would have whistled and given the red," Kalulu said. 

"For me, this type of foul is very light. At this level – in the Champions League – it is a bit difficult to accept.

"We wanted to play another game, with determination and the will to be present in all the duels. After the dismissal, it was another match."

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