Arkadiusz Milik admits Napoli stepped up a gear when Dries Mertens came on, but “the first half was really, really bad” against Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Poland international was a surprise starter in Ukraine and converted a penalty, but it was not enough to turn the game around in a 2-1 Champions League defeat.
“It’s difficult to say why this happened, it’s the second or even third game when we don’t start really well and have to change, because the first half was really, really bad,” Milik told Mediaset Premium.
“We didn’t have the ball the way we want to, didn’t create the chances we wanted to. In the last 20-25 minutes we started to create chances and play the kind of football we want, but it was too late to win the game.”
It is also perhaps no coincidence that Napoli’s performance was transformed when Mertens came off the bench.
“Mertens played really, really well, gave us a lot of energy, quality and created a lot of chances. The penalty was because of him. He is a big player and what more can I say? The worst thing is we lost and now we have to look forward and focus on the League.”
Milik had scored a brace in Ukraine a year ago to beat Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, but soon after sustained a serious ACL injury.
“I am fit physically, strong mentally, and I have to show it on the pitch rather than talk about it in interviews. I am a better player than before, a stronger person than before and I have to prove it with my quality.”