Pioli: Milan 'could have done better' in Salzburg draw, Dinamo Zagreb clash already vital

·3-min read

Stefano Pioli claimed Milan could have done more in their 1-1 Champions League draw at Salzburg, as he acknowledged next week's clash with Dinamo Zagreb has already taken on extra importance.

Milan fell behind to a terrific solo effort from Noah Okafor after 28 minutes of their Champions League opener, but claimed a share of the spoils thanks to Alexis Saelemaekers' fierce left-footed finish.

The Rossoneri have now avoided defeat in 14 of their last 15 opening group-stage matches in the competition (W10 D4 L1), but they struggled to break down their resolute hosts despite taking charge in the second half.

Milan enjoyed 65 per cent of the possession in Salzburg – their highest such figure in the Champions League since records began – but Rafael Leao's late deflected effort was the closest they came to a winner.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Pioli expressed his satisfaction with the point, but highlighted the Rossoneri's need to improve.

"It was a good result with a sufficient performance but not of a high level. If the quality level is not raised there are dangers," Pioli said.

"We could have done better, but they are strong, we bring home a positive result.

"The boys know how to recognise when they are good on the pitch, today we struggled on the second balls and they could start again with their dangerous forwards.

"There was a lack of speed in the construction, we could have found better solutions and when we did, we were dangerous.

"We could have taken up the space better to play a little more of the game in their half."

Having watched Group E favourites Chelsea slip to a demoralising defeat at Dinamo Zagreb earlier on Tuesday, both sides had the chance to take charge of the race for qualification.

Milan face Dinamo in their next continental outing next Wednesday, and Pioli admits the Croatian outfit's victory over the Blues has heightened the importance of that match.

"I did not expect the result between Dinamo Zagreb and Chelsea," he admitted. "This teaches us that in football there are no obvious matches.

"Salzburg are a good team and last year they never lost at home. The next match for us will have an important weight."

With Tuesday's result, Salzburg are unbeaten in five home Champions League games (W3 D2), while they have not started any of their five campaigns in the competition with a loss (W1 D4).

Only Deportivo La Coruna (also five times) also played in as many Champions League seasons without ever losing their opening match.

Rossoneri defender Fikayo Tomori echoed his coaches' views, expressing relief at remaining unbeaten against resolute opponents.

"It was the game we expected. They are strong on pressing and very fast up front," he said. "We played well, we could have done better, but a point on this field is difficult to take.

"So we are happy, even if we are also aware that we can do more. We knew it would be difficult. Taking a point in Salzburg is not bad at all.

"We played well, but not at our level. The group is open, the next match against Dinamo Zagreb, we have to do better and win. We can qualify."