AC Milan won 3-1 against Empoli with to two injury-time goals from Fode Ballo-Toure and Rafael Leao, who helped the Serie A winners overcome their opponents.
After Ante Rebic put Milan ahead in the 79th minute, Nedim Bajrami’s stoppage-time free-kick appeared to have gained Empoli a point.
However, Ballo-Toure scored in the 94th minute to break Empoli’s resolve.
With Empoli’s dreams destroyed, Leao added a third to guarantee Milan returned to winning ways after their loss to Napoli the previous week.
Leao had a chance to open the scoring early on, but Guglielmo Vicario made a superb save with his feet to deflect the Portugal international’s low drive.
Empoli’s resistance held solid until halftime, when Alexis Saelemaekers dragged wide, and the hosts’ goal continued to live a charmed life after the restart when Olivier Giroud’s free-kick struck the crossbar.
Vicario made an amazing save to deny Sandro Tonali, but Milan broke through when substitute Rebic blasted home from Leao’s cross.
However, Rebic’s goal was far from decisive, with a fantastic free-kick from Bajrami giving Empoli hope of salvaging a point.
It was not to be, as Milan rallied to defeat Empoli for the fourth time in a row.
Milan took the lead again just 105 seconds later when Ballo-Toure converted Rade Krunic’s flick-on, and victory was sealed when Leao dinked over Vicario in the dying embers of a thrilling match.
What does it imply? Milan survives thanks to the champions’ determination.
When Bajrami’s free-kick nestled in, Milan’s players could have easily given up, but they are reigning champions for a reason.
They regained the cutting edge that had been lacking for much of the game before Rebic’s opening, and with 17 points from eight games, they are only a victory behind leaders Napoli.
Another significant step forward for Leao
On Saturday’s evidence, it is evident why Leao is supposedly of interest to some of Europe’s elite sides.
He pushed Milan ahead the whole game, finishing with a goal and an assist – one of five important passes, two more than any other player on the field.
Giroud struggles to reach new heights.
Giroud was unlucky with the free-kick that struck the crossbar, but he was eventually hooked with 17 minutes remaining and Milan in desperate need of a goal. In his place, Rebic scored one and set up another in a clinical cameo.
Giroud was caught offside three times and failed to hit the target with any of his three shots in a frustrating match for the striker.
Important Opta Facts
- Empoli-Milan is only the fourth game in Serie A history to have three goals scored after the 90th minute of play/ – This is Milan’s first Serie A victory courtesy to a goal scored in second-half injury time since April 24, against Lazio.
- Leao, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Dango Ouattara, is one of only four players in the main five European leagues this season to have scored at least four goals and provided at least four assists.
- Bajrami is the first player in Serie A history to score a direct free-kick goal during injury time, joining Udinese against Torino on February 6th.
- Rebic has scored five of his 15 Serie A away goals this season, including the two most recent (prior today against Salernitana in February).
What comes next?
Milan return to action in the Champions League on Wednesday, when they face a difficult journey to Chelsea. Meanwhile, Empoli will visit Torino on October 9.