Champions League: Stefano Pioli welcomes potential Milan derby semi-final

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has talked up the prospect of a Milan derby Champions League semi-final after his side advanced on Tuesday night.

The Rossoneri drew 1-1 in Napoli in their quarterfinal second leg, seeing Milan advance 2-1 on aggregate. This result means that the seven-time champions have reached the last four for the first time since 2006/07.

It also opens up the tantalising prospect of a derby semi-final, with Inter still in the competition, too. Stefano Pioli addressed his feelings on facing his fellow Milan club in the next round.

“We take it one step at a time,” said Pioli, via One Football. “And then it’s whomever we’re going to face. But I’m sure it would be a great derby in the semi-final.

“They [Inter] have a big advantage after the first leg,” added the Milan boss, via Mediaset. “These will be another two difficult and exciting clashes. It is normal that it will be like this because it is the Champions League semi-finals.”

Stefano Pioli also hailed his Milan side’s resilience, pointing out that many unfavoured them in their tie against Napoli.

“Everyone called us underdogs,” he said during his post-match interview. “But I train a group with a big heart.

“Having the 1-0 in the first leg helped us in one direction and held us back in another. We sat deeper because we didn’t want to give Osimhen space, we should have kept the ball better in the second half. But many of our players had never played such an important match. They all sacrificed.

“We wanted and deserved qualification – congratulations to the boys.”

A pulsating night in Naples saw the Rossoneri through to the Champions League semis.

Napoli 1 (1) – (2) 1 AC Milan: missed penalties as Stefano Pioli’s side advance

A pair of missed penalties highlighted a fascinating all-Italian clash on Tuesday night.

Napoli enjoyed the bulk of possession throughout this second leg but found opportunities hard to come by. Matteo Politano looked the most threatening early on, trying his luck with a couple of shots. However, the hosts did not truly test Mike Maignan in the Milan goal.

The Rossoneri’s determined defence frustrated the Partenopei, with Davide Calabria having a brilliant match defending Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Milan then had a golden opportunity to extend their lead against the run of play.

Mario Rui caught Rafael Leao in the box, giving Olivier Giroud the opportunity to score from the spot. But Alex Meret saved the Frenchman’s resulting penalty, leaving the match scoreless.

The visitors managed to get ahead just before half-time, though. Rafael Leao went on an inspired run where he carved through Napoli’s ailing defence. The Portuguese winger then had the presence of mind to square the ball to Giroud, who tapped in his fifth UCL goal of the campaign.

Stefano Pioli’s men were truly in the driving seat heading into the second half.

Rossoneri continue to thwart Napoli onslaught

The game restarted in much the same manner as before the interval. Napoli tried everything but Milan managed to absorb the relentless pressure. A frustrating night for Kvaratskhelia saw him blaze a pair of shots over the bar – and it got worse on 80 minutes.

The hosts had a penalty when Fikayo Tomori handled a Giovani Di Lorenzo cross. Unfortunately, though, they could not capitalise on this as Maignan saved Kvaratskhelia’s spot-kick.

Despite a late Victor Osimhen header offering some hope, Napoli saw their European dreams thwarted at the quarterfinal stage with the 1-1 draw.

Meanwhile, Stefano Pioli and AC Milan await to see if their city rivals can hold on to their first-leg advantage to meet in the last four. Inter play Benfica on Wednesday night, currently holding a 2-0 lead after their first meeting.

Featured image credit: Getty