Giroud continues free-scoring form as Milan boss hails ‘very positive atmosphere’

 Stefano Pioli hailed the belief and morale of AC Milan after Olivier Giroud bagged a brace to help his side earn a 4-0 victory over Lazio in the Coppa Italia.

The Rossoneri came into the cup quarter-final having beaten city rivals Inter Milan in their last match. The promise of another Milan derby in a two-legged semi-final was at stake against Lazio. Pioli’s side raced into a 3-0 half-time lead as Rafael Leao opened the scoring. Giroud netted twice in five minutes to make it four goals in a week after his brace against Inter. Franck Kessie then netted in the 79th minute to put gloss on the scoreline.

Pioli told Sport Mediaset in his post-match interview: “We made the most of the derby victory to give ourselves even more energy, belief and conviction.

“The whole atmosphere is very positive, we were focused and in control for the full 90 minutes. He [Giroud] had started the season very well, but had problems with his back and ankle, so needed time to get back into shape.

“He is a strong centre-forward, but the whole team did well tonight and we must continue like this.”

Ahead of the two-legged tie against Inter in the semi-final and a big match this weekend against Sampdoria, Pioli spoke about the challenge ahead: “These are always special games to prepare and very stimulating.

“The Coppa Italia is a competition both clubs want to win.  So we will try to give our best against opponents we know are very strong.

“We started the week well, it would be good to end it in perfect fashion. However, we must focus on the difficulties of a game against Sampdoria. They are back on track under Marco Giampaolo and certainly improving.

“Our aim is to do better than last season, so we are now on 52 points just like last term and have an opportunity to improve on that. We cannot control the results of other teams, so we need to focus only on improving ourselves.”

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Pioli comments on Zlatan injury

Milan coach Stefano Pioli spoke of his delight at the reaction of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to his latest injury.

Pioli said of Ibrahimovic, who was seen encouraging his Milan teammates from the touchline: “He knows it’s an important time of the season and is suffering because he wants to give his contribution.

“He is helping his teammates anyway with his energy and charisma. We hope he returns to the field as soon as possible.

>“It is the great team spirit here that is making the difference, aside from the individual quality of our players.”

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