Napoli 0-1 AC Milan: Giroud fires Rossoneri to the summit
Olivier Giroud provided the decisive touch for AC Milan to secure a potentially decisive victory in the Serie A title race at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona by beating fellow hopefuls Scudetto Napoli 1-0.
Milan’s record at Napoli is terrible as it was broken in Sunday’s game with one win in its last 14 games, but the rare success took it back to the top of the table.
Both teams ruled out controversial penalties in the opening 15 minutes, although there was little major criticism in a balanced first half.
The affair opened after a 49th-minute attempt by Giroud, but Milan held on to victory with a precious win that left them three points behind Napoli and two ahead of Inter.
Amir Rrahmani shone after a strong penalty start for the hosts and Milan’s Ismael Bennacer ignored a penalty after being pushed off by Kalidou Koulibaly in the opening five minutes.
Napoli then believed they had mistakenly denied a penalty shortly after, Victor Osimhen apparently being fouled by Fikayo Tomori in the area.
A hard-fought first half ended scoreless and the goal came shortly after the restart, when Giroud instinctively saved a deflected shot from Davide Calabria.
Napoli substitute Adam Ounas nearly equalized with fifteen minutes to go when his left kick went painfully wide.
Osimhen tested Mike Maignan after a spirited run from a tight corner and it was the last chance for the hosts, who were lucky not to concede another goal in injury time when Alexis Saelemaekers missed a glorious chance.
What does it mean? Milan in front, but Inter can score
Stefano Pioli’s men have accomplished their mission here. Losing points might not have been a disaster for their title chances, but beating a direct rival should do wonders for them psychologically, especially given the occasional disappointment they’ve had lately.
However, the title is certainly not yet. While Inter may be two points behind, the defending champions have one game less.
Either way, the final weeks of the title race will be exciting.
The tireless Hernández plays for Milan
The Rossoneri’s left-back Hernandez has once again been outstanding. He was solid defensively and recorded a combined high of eight digs. He was also a great threat to the future.
Even in the dying moments, he launched two wild runs down the left wing: one resulted in a shot that hurt Ospina’s palms, the other saw him put the ball in late for Saelemaekers. It was one of the three most important passes, more successful than any other.
No influence from Politano
It’s no surprise that Matteo Politano was taken off shortly after the time Luciano Spalletti went to his bank. The winger’s only shot was blocked and he didn’t create chances for his teammates.
Top Opta Facts
After ending their dreadful run against Napoli with a 3-1 win in November 2020, Milan have won back-to-back Serie A games away to Napoli for the first time since 1981.
- Four of Napoli’s five defeats in Serie A this season have been at home.
- Milan reached 60 points for the first time since the 2011/12 season, after 28 games in Serie A.
- Pioli won a Serie A game for the first time in his career against Spalletti as head coach, after 10 attempts.
- Giroud has scored 11 goals in 27 games in all competitions for Milan this season, matching last season (31 games) with Chelsea. He became the third player to score against Inter and Napoli in Serie A this season.
What is the next?
Napoli hope to recover at Hellas Verona within a week, while Milan host Empoli on Saturday.