Milan trail leaders Napoli by nine despite fight in Lecce

Milan trail leaders Napoli by nine despite fight in Lecce

AC Milan’s Serie A title defense suffered another blow on Saturday as, despite coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Lecce, the champions trailed league leaders Napoli by nine points.

Rafeal Leao and Davide Calabria scored to lift Milan out of a dismal first-half display that left them trailing with an own goal from Theo Hernandez and a well-placed header from Federico Baschirotto.

Stefano Pioli’s side struggled to match promoted Lecce, who beat Atalanta and Lazio in their last two games at the Stadio Via Del Mare.

But the draw, which put second-placed Milan one point ahead of Juventus, who were smashed by Napoli on Friday night, caps off a poor week that has severely compromised their bid to retain the Scudetto.

It comes after blowing a two-goal lead in the closing minutes against Roma last weekend and then being knocked out of the Italian Cup in the round of 16 by a 10-man Torino side in midweek.

“We will believe in it until the end. Now we have to see what we did wrong and what we did better,” midfielder Ismael Bennacer said when asked if Milan still had hopes of holding on to their title.

“We are a good team, when we have these problems we are able to solve them on the pitch.”

Traveling to Saudi Arabia for Wednesday’s Italian Super Cup against Inter Milan, Milan now lead their local rivals by just one point after Lautaro Martinez handed them a 1-0 win over downbeat Verona.

The seven-time European champions were lucky to be just two goals down at half-time in an entertaining game, as Lecce had two great chances to secure an unassailable lead.

Federico Di Francesco slid wide from close range before connecting a perfect cross for Valentin Gendrey, who headed wide with the goal at his mercy in the 26th minute, by which time the hosts were already two lead.

– ‘All wrong’ –

“We got everything wrong that we could have done wrong in the first half. We made dumb mistakes and it was an uphill fight from then on,” Pioli told DAZN.

And after Calabria headed Milan to a header in the 70th minute, they rarely threatened to wrest all three points from them, with Fikayo Tomori nearly giving Lecce the win when he nearly deflected Antonino Gallo’s cross into his own net.

“We had the Italian champions in front of us…if you don’t chase them and put pressure on them, you’ll end up in trouble,” Lecce coach Marco Baroni said.

“We are a recently promoted team, we want to create a space for ourselves… with these results we are getting closer to achieving it.”

Lecce is 12th and one point behind Monza, which defeated bottom-place Cremonese 3-2 to continue a remarkable first season in Italy’s top flight.

Monza was in the third tier when former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi bought the club in 2018 for three million euros.

They now sit 11th after their seventh win under 38-year-old Raffaele Palladino, who took over in mid-September, thanks to Patrick Ciurria’s opener in the eighth minute and goals in every half from Gianluca Caprari.

Monza are unbeaten in four games and look like a good bet to stay on their feet, unlike Cremonese, who are yet to win in their first Serie A campaign since 1996 and then sacked manager Massimiliano Alvini in a bid to salvage their season. .

Italian media report that former Genoa, Cagliari and Palermo coach Davide Ballardini is in line to fill the vacant position.


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