AC Milan beat title rivals Napoli in Serie A

Olivier Giroud of AC Milan celebrates after scoring first goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AC Milan at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy on 6 March 2022.

AC Milan have taken what could prove to be a crucial step toward a first Serie A title in more than a decade with 1-0 victory at Napoli, one of their main rivals.

Veteran Milan forward Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of an intense but cagey match to send Milan back to the top of the ladder.

Milan, who last won the Scudetto in 2011, are two points ahead of defending champions Inter Milan -- who have a game in hand -- and three clear of third-placed Napoli.

Juventus are seven points behind Milan and kept their slim title hopes alive by beating Spezia 1-0.

Talk before the match in Naples centred around the return of the 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was available for Milan for the first time since January due to an achilles problem.

But instead it was another veteran who took centre stage.

After a first half that was high on entertainment but low on scoring chances, the 35-year-old Giroud broke the deadlock four minutes after the restart.

Napoli failed to clear a free kick and although Davide Calabria's shot was woeful, Giroud did well to deflect it into the bottom left corner.

It was Giroud's 11th goal for Milan -- since joining from Chelsea in the off-season -- but his first away from San Siro.

Ibrahimovic was brought on for the final few minutes.

Juventus stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 14 games despite an injury crisis that resulted in Massimiliano Allegri's team start the match in Turin without nine regular players.

Alvaro Morata scored the only goal of the game in the 21st minute after an error by Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.

His terrible kick was intercepted in midfield and played through to Manuel Locatelli, who rolled it across to Morata for his first league goal since December.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina was made to rue several missed opportunities in a 1-1 home draw with Verona.

Only two points separated the two teams, which were both desperate for a win to close in on the European places.

Krzysztof Piatek fired Fiorentina ahead in the 10th minute but Gianluca Caprari equalised from the penalty spot 10 minutes later.

Torino drew 0-0 at Bologna while Genoa recorded their sixth successive draw, goalless against Empoli, as they continue to try to inch its way toward safety.

Venezia also remained in the bottom three as they lost 4-1 at home to Sassuolo.

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