Olivier Giroud is a big-game player. After the Derby, he decided another big match tonight, scoring the only goal of the game as AC Milan beat Napoli 1-0 at the Stadio Maradona. It’s a crucial victory for the Rossoneri, who have sent out a clear message. In a vital match at the top of the league and in a hostile atmosphere, they were able to get the better of a really strong side, returning to the top of the table on matchday 28 (albeit Inter have a game in hand). It was a fantastic performance from Pioli’s team, who impressed throughout but went up another gear in the second half.
Giroud took centre stage again, scoring his eleventh goal of the season and his first away from San Siro as the Diavolo enjoyed another magical night. It was a deserved win, too, with AC Milan putting in a solid display in defence to keep a clean sheet. The team are dreaming of the Scudetto, even if Champions League qualification remains the primary goal. And Ibrahimović is back to lend a helping hand. A great team with a fantastic mentality. The Diavolo now sit in first place on 60 points, two ahead of Inter and three in front of Napoli. There will be celebrations tonight before a week of hard work begins. Next weekend, at 20:45 CET on Saturday 13 March, AC Milan v Empoli will be played at San Siro.
CHECK OUT THE GALLERY FROM NAPOLI v AC MILAN
The match started at a high tempo and with the home side in the ascendancy, but AC Milan stood firm. Both teams had penalty shouts in the first 15 minutes – AC Milan for a coming-together between Koulibaly and Bennacer and Napoli for a challenge by Tomori on Osimhen – but the referee wasn’t interested. In the 19th minute, Ospina kept out Tomori’s header from a corner, but play had already been stopped for a foul by Giroud. A minute later, Osimhen shot wide. It was a tight game as Leão had a go from distance in the 27th minute, but it was no problem for the Napoli goalkeeper. With 30 minutes gone, a good piece of play ended with Tonali firing into the stands. The battle continued until half-time, with neither side particularly on top.
The Rossoneri made a perfect start to the second half, taking the lead in the 49th minute. Indeed, a Tonali free kick eventually made its way to Calabria, who rather snatched at his effort; however, Giroud was in the right place at the right time to divert the ball into the net. The home side tried to respond as Osimhen fired straight at Maignan. Nevertheless, AC Milan were still looking the more dangerous side: a Leão shot was deflected into Ospina’s arms on the 52-minute mark, while the Napoli goalkeeper also intervened to turn a strike from Bennacer behind three minutes later. From the resulting corner, Tomori threatened with a header. Giroud was forced off with an ankle problem, with Coach Pioli replacing the Frenchman with Rebić. Krunić also came on, taking Tonali’s place. Napoli pushed for a late leveller: Ounas (77’) and Lozano (83’) failed to hit the target, while Maignan thwarted Osimhen in the 85th minute. However, it was AC Milan who finished the match on the attack: first, Hernández burst forward and tested Ospina (86’); then, in the five minutes added on for stoppages, Saelemaekers had a glorious chance to seal it, but the Napoli goalkeeper fingertipped the ball over the bar. It didn’t matter, however, as the Rossoneri came away with a 1-0 win.
NAPOLI 0-1 AC MILAN
NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mário Rui; Fabián (76' Mertens), Lobotka (82' Anguissa); Politano (67' Ounas), Zieliński (82' Lozano), Insigne (67' Elmas); Osimhen. Subs: Marfella, Meret; Ghoulam, Juan Jesus, Zanoli; Demme; Petagna. Coach: Spalletti.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria (80' Florenzi), Kalulu, Tomori, Hernández; Bennacer, Tonali (68' Krunić); Messias (80' Saelemaekers), Kessie, Leão (89' Ibrahimović); Giroud (68' Rebić). Subs: Mirante, Tătărușanu; Ballo-Touré, Gabbia; Castillejo, Díaz, Krunić; Maldini. Coach: Pioli.
Referee: Orsato from Schio.
Goals: 49' Giroud (M).
Booked: 7' Pioli (M) from the bench, 24' Koulibaly (N), 37' Rrahmani (N), 39' Giroud (M), 77' Osimhen (N), 77' Hernández (M), 83' Maignan (M), 92' Ounas (N), 94' Florenzi (M).
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