Zlatan fires Milan comeback as Juve miss chance to stretch lead

09 Jul 2020

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MILAN: AC Milan’s Ante Rebic (second right) scores during the Serie A match against Juventus at the San Siro.—AP
MILAN: AC Milan’s Ante Rebic (second right) scores during the Serie A match against Juventus at the San Siro.—AP

MILAN: Juventus wasted the chance to move 10 points clear at the top of Serie A as the defending champions blew a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 at a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired AC Milan on Tuesday, after second-placed Lazio’s shock defeat at Lecce.

Maurizio Sarri’s men led through goals from Adrien Rabiot and Cristiano Ronaldo early in the second half, but were then blown away by a brilliant Milan display as Ibrahimovic scored and had an assist.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli, who could reportedly be sacked at the end of the season, saw his side boost their hopes of European qualification by moving above AS Roma and Napoli into fifth.

“I am not remotely thinking about August 3 or the future. I am thinking of the next game,” Pioli told DAZN. “There have been some tough moments, but I love what I do.”

Juve remain on track for a ninth straight title, sitting seven points clear of Lazio with seven matches remaining, but could have rendered the race all but over with a victory.

The loss snapped the Turin giants’ seven-game winning run in the league.

“We had 60 good minutes. We were in control of the game, then there was a blackout. No need to dwell on that as we have another match in a few days,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said.

“It has happened to other teams, because this is a difficult time for everyone, physically and mentally. We must remain calm, also because the reasons for certain situations are difficult to find.”

A tight first half finished scoreless after Ibrahimovic had a goal ruled out for offside shortly before the break.

But Rabiot broke the deadlock two minutes after the restart by curling a strike into the top right corner. And Ronaldo doubled Juve’s lead six minutes later.

However, Milan turned the match around completely in the space of five minutes.

First Ibrahimovic converted a penalty in the 62nd minute following a handball from Leonardo Bonucci. Then came quick-fire goals from Franck Kessie and substitute Rafael Leo.

Milan extended its advantage 10 minutes from full time when Giacomo Bonaventura capitalised on an error from Juventus defender Alex Sandro to set up Ante Rebic.

Lecce missed a penalty and also had a goal disallowed, but still managed an upset win over title-chasing Lazio.

Fabio Lucioni and Khouma Babacar scored for Lecce after Felipe Caicedo had given Lazio an early lead.

Lazio’s bad night was made worse when defender Patric was sent off for biting Giulio Donati in an incident that could lead to a lengthy ban.

Lazio were just a point behind Juventus when the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. They were on a record unbeaten run of 21 straight matches but the capital side has lost three of its five matches since the season resumed.

“Our dream must continue, which is to qualify mathematically for the Champions League,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia. “We hope to achieve it as soon as possible, but that is our only objective.”

Lecce moved out of the relegation zone, a point above Genoa.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020