Stefano Pioli told his AC Milan players to have no regrets about their performance despite suffering their first Serie A defeat in 304 days against Juventus on Wednesday.
The Italian champions ran out 3-1 winners at San Siro, ending a 27-match unbeaten league run from Pioli’s side that stretched back to March 2020.
Milan retained top spot thanks to their rivals Inter Milan slipping up by losing 2-1 to Sampdoria earlier in the day, and Pioli insisted that he was proud of his team regardless of the result.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve lived through the ugly sensation of a defeat,” he told Sky Italia.
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“I gave the players a pat on the back, they deserved it. They shouldn’t have regrets after a game like this, they should keep their heads up."
Milan’s chances against the Italian champions were dealt a blow earlier on Wednesday when Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic tested positive for COVID-19 to take their tally of unavailable players to seven.
“Seven is a lot, but we didn’t lose our identity,” Pioli said.
“The individual episodes and the quality of the opponent made the difference.
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“The team could have been scared, they knew that another two players would be missing tonight. They had no fear.”
Victory for Juventus moved Andrea Pirlo’s side into the top four and seven points behind Milan, but they have a game in hand over the league leaders.
Pirlo, who is looking to lead Juve to a 10th consecutive league title in his first season as a manager, was encouraged by what he saw from his players.
“We didn’t look at the results of the other teams above us, we were focused on what we had to do,” he said.
“It was important tonight above all to look for this spirit, the spirit of a team that wants to command, coming to a pitch this important against the team that is top of the league and playing our own game.”