Vincenzo Montella praised Gianluca Lapadula for “changing his prospects with hard work and sweat” after a tough Milan 2-1 win over Crotone.
The minnows had taken the shock lead at San Siro through Diego Falcinelli, then Mario Pasalic equalised and M’Baye Niang saw a penalty saved before a late Lapadula winner.
“It was a difficult match, as we had predicted, as Crotone know how to sacrifice themselves for the team,” the Rossoneri Coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“I actually liked the first half more than the second. We slowly got more irritable, but still created many chances and I think at the end of the day it was a deserved win.
“I compliment Crotone, but above all Milan, because this was a hard-fought win. Serie A is where you risk losing these games. I feared we might underestimate Crotone, that didn’t happen and that’s important for a Coach.
“It’s true we must aim higher, but have to take our opponents into account too.”
Lapadula had his first start at San Siro and is fast becoming first choice, regardless of Carlos Bacca’s fitness.
“He’s in the middle of a great fairy-tale. Over the last month his prospects and status have changed, all of it earned with hard work and sweat. I hope this sporting determination never leaves him.
“Up until two months ago Lapadula hadn’t even made his Serie A debut. Now he’s proving he deserves this shirt, with or without Bacca.”
Milan remain within four points of leaders Juventus and could break away if Roma fail to win the Derby della Capitale this afternoon.
“I haven’t looked at the table, we just want to be a team that improves.”