Stefano Pioli believes it was a game of two halves, the difference being that ‘Inter scored and Milan didn’t,’ but they can still turn the Champions League semi-final around, especially with Rafael Leao back.

The Rossoneri had a nightmare start to the first leg of the Champions League semi-final with their city rivals, as Rafael Leao was ruled out by injury, then Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had Inter leading 2-0 by the 11th minute.

Ismael Bennacer also limped off and both sides rattled the woodwork with Hakan Calhanoglu and Sandro Tonali, while Inter had a penalty revoked by VAR.

“That is a harsh term,” Pioli told Amazon Prime Italia when it was posited to him that Milan looked unrecognisable.

“The fact is Inter played better in the first half and scored two goals, Milan played better in the second half and did not score. This is football at this level. Inter had more quality and were more efficient in the first half, while we made too many mistakes for this level.

“Until the seventh minute, Inter had never even stepped into our penalty area, then scored at the first corner. Clearly, we should’ve been more concentrated. We wanted a different result, but we have to keep believing, because an incident can change everything in the second leg.”

Inter seemed more aggressive and determined straight out of the gate, which was surprising considering Milan were the home team with a greater share of the crowd at San Siro.

“We intended to be compact, intense and aggressive, but Inter had the better in lots of 50-50 situations and that helped them take control of the game. They also did well to convert those two early chances, which made it difficult for us on a tactical and mental level. I saw a strong reaction and that is what we must build on for the next match.”

The second leg is on Tuesday evening, but as the away goals rule no longer applies, any win by a two-goal margin will force extra time.

It’s going to be a tall ask, seeing as Milan have lost three of their four meetings with Inter this season between Serie A, the Supercoppa Italiana and Champions League.

“We had the chances in the second half, so naturally in the second leg we need more quality and a more aggressive attitude. We need to raise the bar and play from the start with something much closer to the second half performance.

“The lads are well aware this wasn’t the performance or the result we wanted, they are disappointed, but know we still have a chance to turn it around.”

Pioli seemed irritated with the referee after the final whistle, what happened there?

“I saw many 50-50 situations that were not evaluated the same way.”

The big question inevitably is around Leao, who has a muscular issue and is hoping to be back for the second leg.

“We’ll see. He was not in any condition to play today, there are six days to go and we hope he’ll be ready.”

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