A small margin but of enormous importance. This evening, AC Milan beat Empoli 1-0 at San Siro thanks to a goal from Pierre Kalulu, who really is enjoying himself at the moment. These are three fantastic points that the Rossoneri had to work hard for, making them even more crucial and valued. After an excellent first half where Coach Pioli’s men should have scored more than once, the team played at a lower tempo after the restart, allowing Empoli to create two big chances in particular. Both were thwarted by Maignan, who preserved the Rossoneri’s one-goal advantage. From that point, AC Milan were never really put under the cosh, even if they failed to create anything meaningful themselves.
A second consecutive 1-0 win, another clean sheet (the Diavolo’s third in a row when the Coppa Italia is also taken into account) and consolidation of first place: this is what happened in front of a lively home crowd, who turned out in big numbers and supported the initiatives put on by the Club to help those affected by the war in Ukraine. With the wind in their sails, AC Milan will now look ahead to a week that will see them face Cagliari at 20:45 CET on Saturday evening at the Sardegna Arena. It’s time to enjoy tonight’s victory for a few hours; then, more hard work will be required in order to keep up the pace.
CHECK OUT THE GALLERY FROM AC MILAN v EMPOLI
AC Milan got off to a really bright start, put the guests under constant pressure and barely let them breathe in defence. The first chance of the game fell the way of Florenzi in the ninth minute as his effort was saved by Vicario. Ten minutes later, Kalulu bagged the only goal of the game, picking up the ball on the edge of the box after Giroud's free-kick was blocked and rifling the ball into the bottom left corner – the keeper had no chance. The Rossoneri managed their lead well and chose to up the ante only at the right moment, such as in the 36th minute when Leão's back-heel released Florenzi, who fired just over from an acute angle. Rafa was in the thick of the action again in the 44th minute with a typical driving run down the left; he fed Giroud, who turned towards goal and let fly, only for Luperto to get the block in. One minute later, Olivier rose to head home from Calabria's excellent free-kick delivery, only for Vicario to make the save; Cacace then did brilliantly to deny Kessie from close range.
Empoli just missed a chance to draw level at the start of the second half when Luperto forced Maignan into a stunning save. The visitors kept up the pressure and, moments later, Żurkowski's deflected effort sailed into Mike's grateful arms. After the slight sluggishness to start the second 45, Messias spurred AC Milan back into life in the 56th minute but sent his shot straight at Vicario. The same move produced the same shot and the same result for Messias in the 67th minute. Pioli mixed it up in the attacking midfield position and also sent Zlatan on for Giroud; however, there were no further clear chances for either side and it ended 1-0. A tough win, but one of immense value.
AC MILAN 1-0 EMPOLI
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Florenzi; Bennacer (88' Krunić), Tonali; Messias (72' Saelemaekers), Kessie (72' Díaz), Leão (83' Rebić); Giroud (83' Ibrahimović). Subs: Mirante, Tătăruşanu; Ballo-Touré, Gabbia, Romagnoli; Castillejo; Maldini. Coach: Pioli.
EMPOLI (4-3-2-1): Vicario; Fiamozzi (63' Stojanović), Romagnoli, Luperto, Cacace (63' Parisi); Żurkowski, Asllani, Bandinelli (71' Benassi); Bajrami (71' Di Francesco), Henderson (63' Cutrone); Pinamonti. Subs: Ujkani; Ismajli, Tonelli, Viti; Štulac, Verre; La Mantia. Coach: Andreazzoli.
Referee: Chiffi from Padua.
Goal: 19' Kalulu (M).
Booked: 94' Tonali (M).
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