Milan qualified for the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday, thanks to a 3-1 win at RSC Anderlecht, and capped an excellent week with all three points against Italian champions Juventus on Sunday night.
The result was all the more impressive given Massimiliano Allegri had to opt for back-up goalkeeper Marco Amelia between the posts after Christian Abbiati suffered a back problem during the warm-up. That, though, was the worst the Rossoneri coach would have to deal with.
Milan took the lead after 31 minutes when Robinho struck from the spot, and never looked in danger of losing their slender advantage as they controlled the game through to the final whistle. "We only gave our opponents one chance tonight, and I think this is the greatest result we could get," said Allegri. "We still have to improve, that's for sure, because I want to get the best out of my players. In any case, we defended well, finally. We really wanted to win and you could see it from the determination we had on the pitch."
Club legend Marco van Basten was in attendance at San Siro, 20 years to the day after scoring four goals against IFK Göteborg in the UEFA Champions League. The performance he witnessed was probably not of the same standard produced by the Milan of his era, while their position in the table – eighth, 14 points behind Juventus and ten points adrift of third-placed FC Internazionale Milano – remains disappointing for the club's demanding fans.
"We have to play better," said Allegri, whose team were slow out of the blocks at the start of the season. "We created four or five chances in the first half which we didn't take advantage of, but we worked altogether as a team.
"We shouldn't forget that Juventus are doing great things, they are a wonderful team. I also want to underline Stephan El Shaarawy's performance: it's not often you see the league's leading scorer tracking back to help out the defenders as much as he did tonight. He's not only a good striker, he's a complete player."
Riccardo Montolivo, Milan's captain for the game, is confident better times are just over the horizon. "We've gone through a difficult time, but I think it's just because the team changed a lot and we needed time to settle down," said the Italian international. "We have the right coach and we can keep improving, I'm sure of that."
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