AC Milan’s Sandro Tonali celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Alberto Lingria
ROME: If AC Milan win their first Serie A title in 11 years this season – and that’s looking increasingly like a definite possibility – their last-minute comeback win at Lazio on Sunday could prove one of the keys to the apply to success.
Sandro Tonali scored in added time as Milan came back from falling behind in a 2-1 win that restored the Rossoneri’s position at the top of the Italian league.
“It was another important step forward,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli.
With four games remaining, Milan are two points clear of city rivals Inter Milan, who have a game on their rivals. Milan had pressed on Saturday with a 3-1 win against Roma and can regain the lead if they beat Bologna in a rescheduled game on Wednesday.
After a failed clearance from Francesco Acerbi, Tonali controlled a Zlatan Ibrahimović header with his thigh, then slotted the ball in and sparked a wild cheer from a large crowd at the Stadio Olimpico. The game started with determination when Ante Rebić snatched the ball away from Lazio.
“It’s only right to be happy and satisfied with this game and our fans who have once again proved fantastic,” said Pioli.
The win extended Milan’s unbeaten streak to 12 games and marked the Rossoneri’s third win over Lazio this season, including the Italian Cup.
Lazio took an early lead when Ciro Immobile shot between two defenders and deflected a Sergej Milinković-Savić cross into the far post with a touch.
The result made Immobile the fourth player in Europe’s top five leagues, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski, to score at least three times 25 or more goals in a single season since 2016/17 – Immobile’s first season at Lazio.
Olivier Giroud’s equalizer after the break was similar to Immobile’s. The French world champion deflected a pass from Rafael Leão – also with a touch of the ball.
The defeat hurt Lazio’s chances of a Europa League spot, leaving the Roman club two points behind city rivals Roma, who are fifth.
Napoli’s hopes of a first Serie A title in more than three decades were all but dashed in an eight-minute span late in the second half at Empoli on Sunday.
Napoli conceded three goals in a row – including one that was the result of a terrible mistake by goalkeeper Alex Meret – and squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat that extended their winning streak to three games.
Third-placed Napoli stayed seven points behind Milan. Fourth-placed Juventus can move within a point of Napoli with a win in Sassuolo on Monday.
Napoli stars Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne had given Napoli a 2-0 lead before the hour mark and the Partenopei looked confident going into the final 10 minutes.
Then the game turned.
Liam Henderson scored Empoli’s first goal in the 80th minute after Kévin Malcuit lost the ball in midfield.
Meret then took too long to clear and when he finally tried to kick the ball away from his goal, Andrea Pinamonti was directly over him and the ball bounced off the Empoli forward into Meret’s net.
Finally, Pinamonti finished off a quick counter on lap 88 to give 14th placed Empoli its first win since December.
It was only the third time in Serie A history that a team had won by two goals after 79 minutes.
“It was difficult to imagine how the game would end like that,” said Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti. “We made a few mistakes too many and lost the ball too easily.”
Diego Maradona guided Napoli to their only Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.
After spending most of the season in last place, Salernitana are suddenly on a three-game winning streak – the first such streak in Serie A history – and are struggling to avoid relegation.
The southern club defeated the visiting side Fiorentina 2-1 to move within three points of 17th-placed Cagliari, who lost 1-0 to Genoa – another club in the relegation zone.
Substitute Federico Bonazzoli scored the winner in the 79th after Milan Đurić gave Salernitana an early lead. Riccardo Saponara had equalized for Fiorentina.
12th place Udinese and 13th place Bologna also drew 2-2.