Milan knock Juve out of top four with thumping win

Published May 11, 2021
TURIN: AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L) and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo in action during their Serie A match at the Allianz Stadium.—Reuters
TURIN: AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L) and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo in action during their Serie A match at the Allianz Stadium.—Reuters

MILAN: AC Milan pushed Juventus out of the Serie A top four with a 3-0 win in Turin on Sunday which increases their hopes of Champions League football for the first time since 2014.

Brahim Diaz put Milan ahead just before the break with Anton Rebic and Fikayo Tomori adding two more in the second half after Franck Kessie had missed a penalty.

Milan move up to third, equal on 72 points with second-placed Atalanta, who earlier won 5-2 at Parma, with Napoli a further two points behind in fourth and the final Champions League berth.

Juventus are now fifth, one point behind the top four with three games left to play, including next weekend’s clash with newly-crowned champions Inter Milan.

“We had a great game, a victory over a direct rival at this moment in the championship is very important,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli whose side lost 3-1 to Juve in the San Siro in January. “We still have to fight. But I have a very young team, that is maturing as this evening proved.”

The breakthrough came just before half time with Diaz scoring on the rebound after Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny cleared a Hakan Calhanoglu free-kick.

Milan should have gone two up just before the hour when Giorgio Chiellini was judged to have handled the ball, but Szczensy denied Kessie’s weak penalty.

Milan’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off with a left knee injury after 65 minutes with Diaz also replaced five minutes later.

Rebic doubled Milan’s lead with a fantastic strike with 12 minutes to go and Tomori put the cherry on the cake when he headed home the third minutes later.

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo was at a loss to explain what went wrong with star striker Cristiano Ronaldo failing to add to his Serie A-leading 27 league goals.

“We got into the game pretty well and then little by little we fell apart ... It’s hard to explain,” said Pirlo. “When you lose 3-0 in such an important game, it means that there are a lot of things that did not work.”

Pirlo ruled out resigning, insisting: “No I won’t step aside. I undertook this work with a lot of enthusiasm, with difficulties, but my work continues. I think I can do better. There are three games left and I will continue to do my job as long as I can.”

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini’s halftime changes had an immediate impact against already-relegated Parma.

Matteo Pessina doubled Atalanta’s lead shortly after coming on and fellow substitute Luis Muriel scored twice.

Another substitute, Aleksei Miranchuk, scored Atalanta’s final goal. Ruslan Malinovskyi had opened the scoring in the 12th minute.

Cagliari took a potentially decisive step towards safety with a 3-1 win at Benevento, pushing their opponents closer to a swift return to Serie B.

Cagliari moved four points above Benevento and the final relegation spot. Torino are level on points with Cagliari, having played a match less, after drawing 1-1 at Hellas Verona.

Genoa are only five points above the drop after losing 2-1 at home to Sassuolo.

Elsewhere, AS Roma crushed bottom club Crotone 5-0.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

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