AC Milan beat Atalanta to close in on first Serie A title in 11 years

 

AC Milan closed in on their first Serie A title in 11 years on Sunday after goals from Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez earned them a 2-0 win over Atalanta, a victory that sees them end the day two points clear at the top of the standings.

With Internazionale in second and not in action until later on Sunday against Cagliari, league leaders Milan knew they could pile the pressure on their rivals with victory over Atalanta.

But Stefano Pioli’s team looked nervy and devoid of ideas in the first half, failing to create a clear-cut chance in the entire opening 45 minutes.

Their quality came through in the second half, though, as a fine finish from in-form Brazil forward Leao and a superb solo effort from full-back Hernandez saw Milan home, much to the relief of an expectant San Siro.

Inter managed to beat Cagliari later in the day to keep the title race going to the final day of the season, but Milan know a draw in next weekend’s final match at Sassuolo will see the Scudetto return to the red half of the city.

“I had to say goodbye to the fans, it’s a year that excites me,” Pioli said after the match. “It’s not over yet, we must be determined and calm.

“I am very satisfied, because we played against a strong team that created difficulties for us. We did well in the attacking phase and we found solutions. We never lost our clarity and we always believed in it, so the victory is a well-deserved reward.

“I’m living very normal weeks, because I see the positive attitude of my players. We have an important background, derived from two years together. The boys make me proud.”

Sunday’s win was Milan’s fifth league success in a row and they stretched their unbeaten Serie A run to 15 matches.

Substitute Junior Messias supplied a fine pass into Leao, who took a touch before slotting home his 11th league goal of the season in the 56th minute.

Eighth-placed Atalanta, who are still hoping to qualify for Europe next season, rarely threatened an equaliser.

Hernandez then produced a stunning effort that could be a goal-of-the-season contender. He picked the ball up in his own half 15 minutes from time, and ran and ran, bypassing several challenges before drilling into the net to seal a crucial victory in Milan’s final home game in front of a raucous crowd.

Inter take Serie A title race to final day with victory at Cagliari

A double from Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez earned Internazionale a 3-1 win at Cagliari on Sunday, a victory that ensured the Serie A title race will go to the final weekend.

With leaders AC Milan having beaten Atalanta 2-0 at the San Siro earlier on Sunday, Inter had to win in Sardinia to keep the title race alive, edging in front in the 25th minute through Matteo Darmian.

Martinez added a second six minutes after the break for Inter and they appeared on course for a comfortable ninth win in 10 matches in all competitions, before Charalampos Lykogiannis arrowed in a strike out of nowhere to get Cagliari back in it.

Inter suffered some nervy moments before Martinez’s quality shone through at the last, as his classy finish six minutes from time finally ended Cagliari’s hopes of a comeback.

The victory ensured Inter remained two points behind Milan going into the final round. The champions must beat Sampdoria at home on Sunday, and hope Milan lose at Sassuolo, if they are to defend the Scudetto.

“It wasn’t easy after Milan’s win, but the team played really well against an opponent who is problematic on their own ground,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “I congratulate my team, because this was by no means to be taken for granted, especially after playing 120 minutes on Wednesday [in the Coppa Italia final].

“Naturally, we are behind, so we need a victory and for them [Milan] to lose. It’s happened before, I won with Lazio when we were two points behind and Juventus lost to Perugia [in 2000], so it can happen again.”

Inter thought they had settled their nerves in the must-win contest when Milan Skriniar bundled the ball into the net early on, only for VAR to rule the Slovakia defender had used his hand to score.

The visitors did not have to wait much longer for one to count, however, as Ivan Perisic crossed for Darmian to head home his second league goal of the season.

Martinez almost added another on the cusp of half-time, before hammering home the second — his 20th league goal of the campaign. The Argentine became the sixth player in Inter’s history to score 20 goals in a single Serie A term before turning 25.

In cruise control, Inter stood off Lykogiannis and his strike was unstoppable, giving the home fans hope.

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Courtesy: Reuters

 

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