Okafor fires Milan to late win at livid Lazio

Published March 3, 2024
ROME: Lazio’s Luca Pellegrini (L) and Christian Pulisic of AC Milan clash after a challenge during their Serie A match at Stadio Olimpico.—Reuters
ROME: Lazio’s Luca Pellegrini (L) and Christian Pulisic of AC Milan clash after a challenge during their Serie A match at Stadio Olimpico.—Reuters

ROME: A late goal by forward Noah Okafor earned AC Milan a 1-0 win at Lazio in Serie A on Friday after a chaotic end to the game in which the outraged hosts were reduced to eight men in stoppage time.

Milan, who ended their winless run of three games across all competitions, sit third in the league standings on 56 points.

They are one point adrift of second-placed Juventus who travel to Napoli on Sunday and 13 behind leaders Inter Milan, who host Genoa on Monday.

“In the last away matches we had conceded too many goals, being punished at the slightest chance,” coach Stefano Pioli told a press conference. “[But] the group works well, is compact and wants to do well from here to the end.”

Milan conceded eight times in their previous three away games, all against teams in the lower half of the table.

Following a first half short on action and chances, Milan continued to dominate possession and substitute Okafor scored in the 88th minute on a rebound from near the penalty spot, after his initial shot was denied by Lazio keeper Ivan Provedel.

It was the most exciting moment of football in a niggly game in which Lazio had two players sent off in stoppage time, after Luca Pellegrini was dismissed for a second bookable offence just before the hour mark with a cascade of boos from dumbfounded home fans greeting the final whistle.

Lazio drop down to ninth, level on 40 points with Napoli, after a defeat which was dreadful preparation for Tuesday’s return leg with Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16.

Maurizio Sarri’s side lead Bayern by a single goal after winning the first leg in the Italian capital 1-0 last month and his players will need to pick themselves as they are eight points from the top four.

Lazio owner Claudio Lotito was so angered by referee Marco Di Bello’s performance that he said the club would take action against the decisions made against his team.

“When the system isn’t reliable we should ask ourselves some questions,” said Lotito. “A referee should be able to understand where breaking point is... the league needs to have an independent control body which is outside of the current system.”

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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