AC Milan consolidate second spot with tight Fiorentina win

 
Mike Maignan of AC Milan reacts during the Serie A TIM match between ACF Fiorentina and AC Milan at Stadio Artemio Franchi on March 30, 2024 in Florence, Italy. 


AC Milan strengthened their grip on second place in Serie A on Saturday with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Fiorentina after an Adam Marusic header sunk Juventus in the final seconds at Lazio.

Stefano Pioli’s side closed the yawning gap separating them from runaway league leaders Inter Milan, who host Empoli on Easter Monday, to 11 points with well-taken goals early in the second half from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Rafael Leao.


But more importantly a sixth straight win in all competitions meant Milan took advantage of Juve’s single-goal defeat in Rome to move six points clear of their old rivals with eight games remaining.

“It’s more important how you finish the season than how you start it,” said Leao to DAZN.

“We want to finish the season well and we have important matches to play.”

Milan prevailed in Florence also thanks to a decisive display from Mike Maignan, who pulled off a series of good stops before and after Leao had danced past Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano and rolled in the winner in the 53rd minute.

Leao’s fifth league goal of his inconsistent campaign came in a breathless start to the second half in which Loftus-Cheek put Milan ahead in the 47th minute by tucking home the Portugal winger’s backheeled pass.


Alfred Duncan then drew Fiorentina level three minutes later with a brilliant low finish which beat the outstretched Maignan, only for Leao to quickly hit back and secure a big win for Milan.

Fiorentina, who said goodbye to deceased former general manager Giuseppe “Joe” Barone, drop down to 10th following defeat and Torino’s 1-0 win over Monza earlier in the day.


Marusic sinks Juve

Marusic thumped home Matteo Guendouzi’s perfect inswinging cross in the third minute of added time at the Stadio Olimpico to ensure victory in Igor Tudor’s first match as Lazio coach.

The Montenegro defender’s first goal of the season pushed Lazio up to seventh, a point and a place above Napoli who were humbled 3-0 at home by Atalanta.


Lazio are eight points away from the last Champions League spot currently held by fourth-placed Bologna ahead of their fixture with Salernitana on Monday.

“You can’t wish for a better start. I’m happy for the boys as they couldn’t have played any better given the time we had together,” said Tudor to DAZN.

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Juve are stuck firmly in a rut after defeat in the Italian capital left them four matches without a win and sliding back towards a battle for a Champions League spot.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side have picked up just seven points from their last nine games and are eight points ahead of fifth-placed Roma who face Lecce on Monday.

“You can’t concede goals like the one we did with 10 seconds remaining,” said Allegri to DAZN.

“We’re as annoyed by the way we lost the game as much as we are at losing it.”

- Napoli down in dumps -
Napoli are way behind Bologna after first-half goals from Aleksei Miranchuk and Gianluca Scamacca and a late Teun Koopmeiners strike gave Atalanta a convincing win in Naples.

Francesco Calzona’s side have almost no chance of a place in next season’s revamped Champions League unless Italy get an extra spot as they are six points off Roma.

“We’re not mathematically out of it but the chances of us getting there are very slim,” said Calzona after his first league defeat as Napoli coach.

Both Roma and Bologna have to travel south for matches at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona before the end of the campaign, while Atalanta lurk a point behind Roma with a game in hand.

Napoli’s players took the knee in support of their teammate Juan Jesus during the pre-match playing of the Serie A anthem while fans shouted “no to racism” from the stands.

Jesus and Napoli were stunned by the Italian Football Federation’s disciplinary tribunal clearing Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi of racially abusing Jesus in a game two weeks ago for lack of evidence.

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