MILAN Feb 5 Defiant AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella said his team were still on the right track despite slumping to their third successive league defeat on Sunday, this time at home to Sampdoria.
Milan were jeered off the San Siro pitch after the 1-0 defeat left them eighth in Serie A and once again struggling to qualify for Europe next season.
"Is it a crisis? Only in terms of results, but not the way we are playing," Montella told reporters.
"I've seen a team that played a very good game. We didn't have any luck and we can certainly be a little bit more crafty in the final 30 metres but I can't reprimand the lads because we created so many chances."
Montella's cause has not been helped by a spate of injuries which on Sunday left him without influential midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura and forced him to field midfielder Juraj Kucka at right back and central defender Alessio Romanogli at left back.
Seven-times European champions Milan have been plagued by unsuccessful transfers and a series of coaching changes over the last few seasons and have failed to finish in the top six of Serie A since 2013.
Montella inherited a squad with a mixture of young players and journeymen when he took over in the close season but quickly moulded them into an effective unit.
As they climbed to second in October, beating Juventus on the way, he seemed set to break the long sequence of mediocre midtable finishes, which has seen them miss out on Europe for the last three seasons.
Milan fans now fear they may be witnessing yet another false dawn, but Montella disagrees.
"We have to keep going as we are on the right track," he said. "We need to talk less and work more, including myself.
"The team has improved compared to the first half of the championship even though we are not winning any points at the moment. I think it's clear that we are dominating matches even against stronger teams.
"We must continue to believe in ourselves and our principles of football," he added. "I think this is just a bad patch and better times will come." (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Toby Davis)