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    Wednesday, April 19, 2023

    Pioli Not Thinking about Milan Derby after Napoli Triumph

    AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli celebrates after his team advances to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Apri 18, 2023. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Stefano Pioli said that he isn’t thinking about a potential Milan derby in the Champions League semifinals after his AC Milan team got past Napoli in the last eight on Tuesday.

    Milan prevailed 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Naples and is likely to face Inter Milan in the next round as its local rival is two goals in the lead ahead of Wednesday’s second leg with Benfica.

    “We’re too happy to have overcome such a good team... it’s a great feeling,” Pioli said reporters.

    “Let’s take it one step at a time, whoever we get, we get. Whoever we get it will be a great derby and Champions League semi-final.”

    Milan is in the last four of the Champions League for the first time since it was last crowned kings of Europe in 2007.

    It has overcome a post-World Cup slump in recent weeks and Tuesday’s performance was another statement display that gives it the hope of reaching the final.

    “This gives us real faith in ourselves. We already had the belief but getting past Napoli and Tottenham will help us grow,” added Pioli.

    “These are experiences which give you the strength and ability to manage a certain type of pressure. For many of us it was the first time that we were playing such an important match. It’s another big step forward.”

    Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti lamented that his team wasn’t given a penalty for Rafael Leao’s tackle on Hirving Lozano six minutes before the Portugal winger sped up the pitch to lay on Olivier Giroud’s goal which would decide the tie.

    Neither referee Szymon Marciniak nor the VAR officials saw anything wrong with Leao’s challenge, but Spalletti was angry at his team for not getting a spot-kick while it was only a goal behind.

    Spalletti was also annoyed that he had to do without Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Kim Min-jae after it received soft bookings during the first leg.

    “In the 37th minute there was penalty, it’s a clear penalty... he twisted his ankle,” said Spalletti to reporters.

    “We were punished by what happened in the first game. The players with strength and power were the ones which were taken away from us, unjustly so.”

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