Stefano Pioli claimed Milan could have done better in the 1-1 Champions League draw in Salzburg, acknowledging that next week’s clash with Dinamo Zagreb has already gained in importance.
Milan fell behind after 28 minutes of their Champions League opener after a superb solo effort by Noah Okafor but took part of the spoils thanks to Alexis Saelemaekers’ fierce left-footed finish.
The Rossoneri have now avoided defeat in 14 of their last 15 opening games in the group stage of the competition (W10 D4 L1) but have struggled to beat their determined hosts despite taking control in the second half.
Milan had 65 per cent possession in Salzburg – the highest in the Champions League on record – but Rafael Leao’s later deflected shot was the largest they conceded to a winner.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Pioli expressed his satisfaction with the point but stressed the Rossoneri’s need to improve.
“It was a good result, with sufficient performance, but not at a high level. If the level of quality is not increased, there are dangers,” said Pioli.
“We could have done better but they are strong, we bring home a positive result.
“The boys know when they’re good on the pitch, today we had problems with the second ball and they were able to start again with their dangerous strikers.
“The construction lacked speed, we could have found better solutions and when we did we were dangerous.
“We could have used the space better to play a little more of the game in their half.”
After Group E favourites, Chelsea, suffered a demoralizing defeat at Dinamo Zagreb earlier on Tuesday, both teams had chances to take the lead in qualifying.
Milan meet Dinamo in their next continental game next Wednesday and Pioli admits the Croats’ victory over the Blues has increased the importance of the game.
“I didn’t expect the result between Dinamo Zagreb and Chelsea,” he admitted. “It teaches us that there are no obvious games in football.
“Salzburg are a good team and they never lost at home last year. The next game will be important for us.”
With Tuesday’s result, Salzburg are unbeaten in five Champions League home games (3 wins, 2 wins), while they have not started their five seasons in the competition with a defeat (1 wins, 4 wins).
Only Deportivo La Coruna (also five times) played in as many Champions League seasons without ever losing their opener.
Rossoneri defender Fikayo Tomori shared his coach’s views and expressed his relief at going unbeaten against a determined opponent.
“It was the game we expected. They’re strong in pressing and very quick in attack,” he said. “We played well, we could have done better, but it’s hard to get a point on this field.
“That’s why we’re satisfied, even though we’re also aware that we can do more. We knew it would be difficult. Getting a point in Salzburg is not bad at all.
“We played well but not at our level. The group is open, next game against Dinamo Zagreb, we have to do better and win. We can qualify.”