MILAN (Reuters) - AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli refused a request from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to substitute the tired 39-year-old forward during the second half of their 2-1 Serie A derby win over Inter Milan on Saturday.
Ibrahimovic scored both of Milan's goals in the first half and Pioli said he needed the Swede's experience as they defended their lead late in the game.
"He was very tired and asked me for a substitution but I didn't listen to him and he stayed on the pitch until the end," said Pioli.
"He is a champion in everything he does, an exemplary professional who always wants to win and his contribution to the team is very important."
Although Milan lead Serie A with 12 points after winning their first four games, Pioli played down title talk.
"There are three or four teams who have invested more than us and are ahead of us on the road to the title," he said.
"We have invested for the long term and we are ambitious. To aim for the title, you have to raise the level of the players and we are doing that. But our journey will take longer than one year. The club has been good at laying the foundations".
His opposite number Antonio Conte was left frustrated at the defeat and returned to one of his favourite themes, saying that Inter had failed to take their chances.
"We're sorry to have lost a game where we played well. Milan were good and I think, also, lucky. We lacked concentration on their two goals," he said.
"In every game, we create so many chances to score goals, but we have to be more clinical in taking them... It's disappointing because the lads certainly put the effort in and believed they could win."
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)
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