AC Milan takes “sigh of relief” after qualification into last-16 of Champions League
Massimiliano Allegri admits he was relieved to see his side qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League after Italian counterparts Juventus got knocked out from the European tournament. Allegri confessed there was was a collective “sigh of relief” from his side after securing action in the next round.
The Rossoneri picked up a goalless draw with Ajax to finish second place in Group H, thus securing a spot in the last-16 stage of the tournament. Both Ajax and AC Milan had a good chance of acquiring the second spot, with the first one going to Spanish football giants Barcelona.
The odds were stacked against AC Milan, who have been in poor form this season. With the first-half dismissal of Riccardo Montolivo, hopes of entering the next stage hung from a thread for AC Milan. However, in the end the Rossoneri managed to keep a clean sheet and enter the last-16 stage.
“It was a long sigh of relief because this was an important achievement and it wasn't easy to play against Ajax with 10 men,” Allegri told Sky Sport Italia. “The lads were very organized and only ran risks on a few crosses into the box, while Christian Abbiati did well on his saves.
“Mario Balotelli took the team upon his shoulders, earned free-kicks and held the ball up, so he was crucial.”
Talking about the red of Montolivo, the San Siro boss insists the match referee was too harsh with his decision. Allegri insists his captain was “not a nasty player” and didn’t deserve to be sent off.
“Montolivo's was a foul, but certainly not nasty, as he is not a nasty player,” Allegri said. “The referee made this decision on the suggestion of the assistant and it's a shame we had to play for over an hour with 10 men.
“From the touchline I couldn't see it. The replays show it was a hard foul, but not nasty. The lads didn't allow Ajax to get past them, didn’t allow spaces and I think we had a couple of dubious offsides against us too.
“It was tougher to go on the counter in the second half, as the more time went on, the more we could sense the finish line. Ah well, that's the way it went and we all lost a few kilos suffering on the touchline.”
With Juventus out of the tournament, AC Milan is the only Italian team capable of going deep into the tournament. However, AC Milan are in very poor form this season. The Italian outfit is ninth on the Serie A table and gives little hope of qualifying from the last-16 stage.