AC Milan needed true strikers to break down Udinese, says Pioli

Soccer Football - Serie A - AC Milan v Udinese - San Siro, Milan, Italy - March 3, 2021 Udinese's Nahuel Molina in action with AC Milan's Theo Hernandez REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

(Reuters) - Coach Stefano Pioli admitted that AC Milan missed the presence of a natural striker like injured top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his side were left frustrated in a 1-1 Serie A draw against Udinese on Wednesday.

The Rossoneri struggled to create chances against a well-disciplined opponent that was happy to sit deep and defend.

They required a 97th-minute Franck Kessie penalty to avoid defeat after Rodrigo Becao headed the visitors in front midway through the second half.

Ibrahimovic picked up a muscular problem during Sunday’s 2-1 win over AS Roma that ruled him out of the clash, while Mario Mandzukic was also unavailable through injury.

Pioli therefore chose to play 21-year-old winger Rafael Leao through the middle, but the coach was left unimpressed by the performance of the Portuguese.

“I always expect a lot from my players. Rafa’s characteristics are more adapted to attacking spaces,” Pioli told DAZN.

“He doesn’t have the craftiness yet to anticipate the defender when he comes up against defences that are as closed as this.

“Today we were missing the right characteristics to take on this type of match, we were missing the two true strikers in our squad. Leao and (winger Ante) Rebic have other characteristics."

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis)

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