Olivier Giroud took his goal tally into double figures for the 14th season in a row as he helped AC Milan to a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Empoli in Serie A on Sunday for the Rossoneri’s first away win in three months.
Giroud doubled Milan’s lead from the penalty spot in the first half following Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s opener. Teenager Chaka Traorè sealed the win late on after a powerful run from United States international Christian Pulisic.
Third-placed Milan moved four points behind Juventus and nine below league leader Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri beat Hellas Verona 2-1 on Saturday, while Juventus was playing at Salernitana later Sunday — the same team it beat 6-1 in the Italian Cup three days ago.
Roma was also playing later, against Atalanta.
Empoli remained second-to-last in Serie A, two points from safety.
Both Milan and Napoli had length injury lists and their problems grew worse as each lost a player in the first half with home defender Tyronne Ebuehi and Rossoneri counterpart Alessandro Florenzi both going off with apparent muscular issues.
Milan started brightly and took the lead in the 11th minute as Rafael Leão burst down the left and rolled the ball across for an unmarked Loftus-Cheek to slot into the bottom right corner.
The Rossoneri were dominating and had the chance to double their lead in the 31st minute after Empoli midfielder Youssef Maleh handled Loftus-Cheek’s hopeful overhead kick.
Giroud had missed his last spotkick — against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in November — but made no mistake this time, albeit with a somewhat risky penalty that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
It was the veteran Frenchman’s 10th goal for Milan in all competitions this season.
Milan’s intensity dropped in the second half and it risked allowing Empoli back into the game. But the visitors wrapped up the match with two minutes remaining as Pulisic ran almost the entire length of the field before laying the ball off to Traorè to calmly dispatch into the far corner.
It was the 19-year-old’s second goal in as many matches — after he helped Milan beat Cagliari 4-1 in the Italian Cup on Tuesday — but his first in Serie A.
Pasquale Mazzocchi’s debut for Napoli lasted just four minutes before he was sent off amid a horror show for the defending champion that saw it lose 3-0 at Torino.
Mazzocchi, who joined from Salernitana two days ago, was brought on at halftime and moments later went sliding into a tackle on Valentino Lazaro with a high boot. The referee initially awarded a yellow card but after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor changed it to a straight red.
Torino was already leading following Antonio Sanabria’s strike at the end of the first half and Nikola Vlašić doubled his team’s advantage almost immediately.
Alessandro Buongiorno scored Torino’s third in the 66th, two minutes after Ivan Ilić hit the post for the home team.
It was a fourth straight match without a win for Napoli — a run that includes two league losses and being knocked out of the Italian Cup.
The defending champion slipped to ninth in the league, five points below fourth-placed Fiorentina and one ahead of Torino. It is 20 points behind leaders Inter.
Lazio cut the gap to the top four to three points after winning 2-1 at relegation-threatened Udinese.
Source website: www.thehindu.com