MILAN: A much-changed AC Milan saw off bottom side Salernitana 2-0 on Saturday to take top spot in Serie A as previous leaders Napoli lost 3-2 to Atalanta, while Inter Milan cruised to victory at AS Roma.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli made six changes to his starting XI from the midweek victory at Genoa, with Tuesday’s crucial Champions League match against Liverpool in mind.

But Franck Kessie and Alexis Saelemaekers both scored inside the first 20 minutes to ensure a straightforward victory for the hosts at the San Siro.

Kessie fired home after Rafael Leao cut the ball back from the byline in the fifth minute and Saelemaekers doubled Milan’s lead in the 18th with a powerful strike.

Milan have given their bid for a first league title since 2011 a boost this week after bouncing back from two straight defeats with successive victories.

Pioli’s men sit one point clear of reigning champions Inter, who beat Roma 3-0, and two ahead of Napoli.

I am satisfied with a good performance, a decent victory, because some assumed this could be taken for granted,” Pioli told DAZN. It would’ve been better if we had scored more goals, especially considering how many chances we created.”

The seven-time European champions have to beat already-qualified Liverpool in their final group game in Milan next week to have a chance of reaching the last 16.

Roma coach Jose Mourinho had a nightmare match against his former team as the capital side, missing several players through injuries and suspension, were brushed aside by Inter.

Hakan Calhanoglu, former Roma forward Edin Dzeko, and Denzel Dumfries scored in the first half. It was the first time in Mourinho’s career that one of his teams was 3-0 down at halftime.

Mourinho answered only one question from journalists in his news conference.

“I apologise again for not responding to other questions. Im just going to say what I think,” Mourinho said. “Inter is better than us on a good day, they finished with 29 points more than us last year and also this year they’re better. On a good day it would have been a difficult match, but today it was even harder because of absentees.”

Mourinho steered Inter to the treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League success in 2010. He took over at Roma in the offseason but has had mixed results. Roma have lost four of their past six league matches.

Inter opened the scoring when Calhanoglu curled in directly from the corner flag. The lead was doubled in the 24th minute. Calhanoglu cut inside from the left and pulled the ball back for Dzeko to sweep into the top left corner.

The Nerazzurri had the result virtually wrapped up by halftime. Alessandro Bastoni whipped in a cross from the left for a diving header from Dumfries at the back post.

Two goals in the space of five minutes saw Atalanta recover from 2-1 down to win in Naples.

Ruslan Malinovskyi opened the scoring for Napoli before Piotr Zielinski equalised. Dries Mertens extended the lead at the Diego Maradona Stadium before Atalanta roared back with goals from Merih Demiral and Remo Freuler to seal a dramatic win.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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