MILAN (AP) — The dispiriting jeers turned to encouraging cheers, even though the result was still bad for AC Milan.
The fans' quick change in attitude wasn't exactly a surprise, however, with a derby against Inter Milan next on the Serie A schedule.
Milan has had a terrible start to the year, dropping from second-place and five points behind leader Napoli to fifth place and 15 behind. Inter, conversely, has risen to second place — albeit 13 points behind Napoli.
Milan's last match ended up being a disastrous 5-2 loss to 16th-place Sassuolo, sparking the boos from the crowd. The defending champions have now conceded 12 goals in their past three matches, and they were also eliminated from the Italian Cup and lost to Inter in the Italian Super Cup.
The heartening display from the fans at the end of the match on Sunday was followed by a supportive visit from the team's executives on Wednesday. Milan president Paolo Scaroni and director Paolo Maldini — a former Milan great — went to the training ground with other club directors.
They watched a practice session and then had lunch with the players.
“We have great confidence in you,” Scaroni reportedly told the players. “We feel such a strong bond with you that we want to be on the field with you.”
The Sassuolo match was Milan’s worst home result since a 6-1 loss to Juventus in 1997. It was also the first time Milan has conceded four goals in back-to-back Serie A matches.
“We’ve hit a rough patch both mentally and tactically so I’ll have to work even more on the mindset of my players to understand what they need to get over this difficult period and also try to understand the tactical issues in order to find the right remedy,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said.
The same Milan players who were drawing compliments from around Europe for their style of play and spirit last season now look lost and simply without answers.
“We have to make the most of the fact we have a big game coming up, because big games are certainly very hard but the higher the mountain to climb, the higher the reward,” Pioli said. “We need this sort of mindset."