Ancelotti: Desire the key

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti claimed desire has been the key factor in his club's rise from a troubled start to the season to the Serie A summit.

Sunday night's 1-0 home success over Napoli has propelled Milan to the top of the table for the first time since May 2004, when they were last crowned champions of Italy.

And that despite beginning this campaign with two defeats that suggested Milan may be heading for a similarly disastrous start to the one they had a year ago, that cost them all hopes of winning the scudetto.

Back then a failure to win any of their first seven home league matches saw Milan trail city rivals Inter Milan by more than 20 points before Christmas.

But this time around, Ancelotti's team have responded in fine style, winning seven of the next eight in Serie A and they are now a point clear of Udinese and Inter at the top.

"Milan have stayed on their feet thanks to a great desire to overcome our initial difficulties," the coach, a former midfielder at Milan and AS Roma, told Rai Radio.

"At the beginning this was a team with a lot of graft that needed to overcome the difficulties of integrating new players. The team remained united and in the end we overcame the difficulties."

It hasn't been all plain sailing by any means with most of Milan's victories coming by a single goal.

Only the 4-1 victory over Lazio and a 3-0 defeat of Sampdoria - in a match that was goalless until a wrongful penalty and sending off handed Milan a double advantage - has seen the Rossoneri win at a swagger.

And even the defeat of Napoli, during which Milan largely dominated, was won with a late own goal and came against a team that played the entire second half with ten men.

But Milan are at least grinding out victories if not looking spectacular in so doing.

"In the beginning the team was a little disjointed, we didn't manage to attack or defend well," added Ancelotti. "There was a quite clear turning point after Kaka said that talent was not enough to challenge for an important title.

"In these games (since) you've seen a Milan that is less technical and skilful in its play but more effective. When (Andrea) Pirlo returns I think we'll play better. Pirlo is irreplaceable for us, his presence on the pitch guarantees quality."

Ancelotti also had some words of comfort for one of his rivals, Roma's Luciano Spalletti. While Milan's malaise lasted only a couple of games, Roma continue to endure a torrid season.

Already they trail Milan by 15 points and their title hopes seem to have gone up in smoke. Two wins from nine matches, including defeats in their last four Serie A encounters, has left Roma one place and one point above the relegation zone.

"To Luciano I would say: stay strong but the club also needs to stay strong. Right now Roma have a great opportunity to bounce back starting with the Champions League (against Chelsea on Tuesday)."