Massimiliano Allegri admits he “lost weight” with the stress of watching 10-man Milan’s 0-0 draw with Ajax.
“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,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“The lads were very organised 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.”
The Rossoneri went down to 10 men after just 22 minutes when Riccardo Montolivo was shown a straight red for stamping on Christian Poulsen’s ankle.
“Montolivo’s was a foul, but certainly not nasty, as he is not a nasty player. 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.”
Stephan El Shaarawy made way for Andrea Poli after the red card, though Allegri revealed the substitution had already been planned.
“With two forwards I thought that if we did go behind, we’d at least be able to get back into it. We don’t defend very well in Serie A, but today the team was excellent and we allowed Ajax very little apart from a few chaotic moves in front of the goalkeeper.
“El Shaarawy had a bruise on the foot that was fractured, he felt pain and Poli wasn’t ready, so I was going to move Montolivo to trequartista. I didn’t have time to make that change and maybe he wouldn’t have been sent off in that position...
“Ah well, that’s the way it went and we all lost a few kilos suffering on the touchline.”
Allegri warned that there will be changes to the side in January, aside from Adil Rami and Keisuke Honda coming in. The Japanese international is cup-tied, having played in the Champions League with CSKA Moscow.
“Rami and Honda are good players who can certainly help us out. We still have too many players, though, as I don’t like players to spend a year on vacation at Milanello.”