Gennaro Gattuso felt AC Milan lacked conviction in the opposition penalty area as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sassuolo.
Nikola Kalinic came off the bench to snatch a point for the hosts at San Siro four minutes from time after Sassuolo absorbed considerable first-half pressure and led through Matteo Politano's fine 75th-minute finish.
The result meant Milan were unable to fully capitalise upon defeats for Inter in fifth and Roma in the final Champions League qualification spot – the latter prize appearing a remote prospect with eight points to make up over the remaining seven games of the season.
"We have not attacked the area with force and malice," newly contracted head coach Gattusso told Milan TV after a game where Franck Kessie's inexplicable close-range miss inside the first minute set an unwelcome tone for his side.
"If you do not arrive in the area you do not hurt your opponents. There were two balls in which fell into the area where Suso could have been.
"Of course, the performance remains but we had to win. There was no victory and there is disappointment."
Kalinic missed a glorious headed opportunity shortly before turning Mateo Musacchio's cross into the roof of the net and Gattuso was encouraged to see a striker who has struggled since his August move from Fiorentina back on the goal trail.
"He and Andre Silva are important players," he added.
"I am happy that Nikola has scored, but others must do it too because we need our strikers."