Stefano Pioli admits he’s ‘never seen anything like’ the epic 24-penalty shoot-out that allowed Milan to get past Rio Ave and qualify for the Europa League.
They had gone in front in Portugal through Alexis Saelemaekers, but were pegged back for an equaliser, then went 2-1 down within seconds of extra time starting.
Hakan Calhanoglu converted a spot-kick for 2-2 with the last kick of extra time, yet the drama was only just beginning.
“It’s difficult to control your emotions in a situation like that, because we went from possibly winning to possibly losing in the blink of an eye,” said the coach in his press conference.
“This is also why they say a penalty shoot-out is a lottery. We did mentally to hold out, as we are a young side and it was by no means easy to maintain that grit and prove we could suffer for the result.”
There were so many penalties that after a sudden death round, all the players had already taken one and had to start all over again.
“I’d never seen anything like it, but that’s football. I think we did fairly well in the game and just allowed ourselves to be taken by surprise on the goal.”
During the sudden death shoot-out, there was a particularly extraordinary moment when a Rio Ave kick hit the inside of one upright, rolled along the line, bounced off the other post and went out.
“In my career, I lost a Coppa Italia Final because of a shot like that. Penalties are a lottery, but the lads deserved it for their efforts.”
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