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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Alamy Stock Photo Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan looks dejected.
# Upset
AC Milan crash to shock loss
Sassuolo emerged worthy winners at the San Siro after recovering from Alessio Romagnoli’s 21st-minute header.

Updated at 21.55

AC MILAN missed the chance to move top of Serie A on Sunday after crashing to a shock 3-1 home loss to Sassuolo which gives Napoli the opportunity to move clear at the summit.

Sassuolo emerged worthy winners at the San Siro after recovering from Alessio Romagnoli’s 21st-minute header through a superb Gianluca Scamacca strike, Simon Kjaer’s own goal and a solo effort from Domenico Berardi.

“We carried on playing even though we went down a goal. We found faith in ourselves and that’s a positive thing,” said Sassuolo coach Alessio Dionisi to DAZN.

“We came back against Milan at the San Siro and we held on to the result… Today there were a lot of positives.”

Milan finished with 10 men after Romagnoli completed a miserable afternoon by being shown a straight red card for taking out Gregoire Defrel.

Their first home league defeat of the season after last weekend’s 4-3 loss at Fiorentina mean that city rivals Inter Milan are now only a point behind in third, with Atalanta a further three back after beating Juventus in Turin on Sunday.

“We were lacking lucidity because we made mistakes in far too many situations,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli.

“We needed to manage our lead better… we made a mistake for which we paid handsomely, and it’s clear if you concede seven goals in two games something’s not working.”

Pioli, who on Friday signed an extension to his Milan contract until June 2023 with an option for another year, made a raft of changes to the side that earned a superb 1-0 Champions League win at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Injuries to Olivier Giroud and Ante Rebic led to Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing up front with a strong support line of Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz and Alexis Saelemaekers, with Tiemoue Bakayoko making his first start of the season in midfield alongside Ismael Bennacer.

- Milan’s San Siro slip - 

And Bakayoko was at fault for Sassuolo’s leveller which came just three minutes after Milan had taken the lead, lazily giving the ball away to Giacomo Raspadori who then fed Scamacca the chance to smash a long-distance effort in off the bar.

Scamacca was also at the heart of the goal which put Sassuolo in front in the 33rd minute, belting a close-range effort which returning Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan could only push off Kjaer and into his own net.

And Berardi put the icing on the cake 20 minutes into the second half by making a fool of Romagnoli, putting the Italy defender on his face with some nifty dribbling, before calmly finishing the third goal.

Elsewhere, Napoli paid the perfect tribute to Diego Maradona on Sunday by thumping Lazio 4-0 to move three points clear at the top of Serie A.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was among those present in Naples as the southern Italian city honoured one of its adopted sons, who led Napoli to their only two league titles and the 1989 Uefa Cup and died a year ago on Thursday.

Fans chanted Maradona’s name as a statue, which depicts their idol in full flight atop the number 10, was carried around the pitch.

A tribute from Pele was shown on the stadium’s big screens, while players came out for their pre-match warm-up to the sound of “Life Is Life” by Opus, the song to which Maradona does keepie-uppies in one of the most beloved pieces of footage of the Argentine in his pomp.

Inspired by the emotional ceremony, Napoli took full advantage of AC Milan crashing to a 3-1 home defeat against Sassuolo to go it alone at the summit with an at times electrifying performance.

Kitted out in shirts which bore Maradona’s face, Luciano Spalletti’s table toppers came out like a team possessed and blew Lazio out of the water with three superb first half goals.

- Mertens sweeps Lazio aside -

In almost perfect synergy with the occasion it was another adopted Neapolitan in Dries Mertens who led the charge, the Belgian nicknamed ‘Ciro’ scoring a brilliant brace of which Maradona himself would have been proud.

Piotr Zielinski got the ball rolling in the seventh minute by almost ripping a hole in the net with his rocket opener, and just three minutes later Mertens took the roof off the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona when he ended a brilliant move by dumping Patric on the deck with a feint and slotting home a cool finish.

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After Luis Alberto and then Francesco Acerbi went close for Lazio in the space of a minute, Mertens effectively sealed the win with more than an hour to play with another wonderful goal, clipping a first-time strike that sailed over a despairing Pepe Reina and increased his club-record goal tally to 139.

The 34-year-old’s three superb strikes in his last two Serie A matches will also give Spalletti hope that he can get by without star striker Victor Osimhen, out for up to three months with facial fractures.

Fabian Ruiz capped a perfect night when he lashed home the fourth from distance.

Roma are three points behind Atalanta in fifth after Tammy Abraham gave them a 1-0 win over 13th-placed Torino.

England forward Abraham rolled home the winner in the 32nd minute and shortly after thought he would have a chance to net his fifth goal in four games in all competitions from the penalty spot.

However, after waiting over five minutes to take the spot-kick, the decision was overturned for the 24-year-old’s heel being offside in the build-up.

Bologna moved ninth, level on 21 points with troubled Juve with a 1-0 win at Spezia thanks to Marko Arnautovic’s penalty seven minutes from the end on the Italian Riviera.

Earlier Andriy Shevchenko earned his first point as Genoa coach with a largely uneventful goalless draw at Udinese.

Genoa have been without key striker Mattia Destro for a month and the away side lacked firepower despite having more of the ball at the Dacia Arena.

On Wednesday his team host Milan, where the former Ukraine striker scored 175 goals and won one Serie A title and the 2003 Champions League.

© – AFP, 2021

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