AC Milan 0-1 Napoli: Hosts suffer major blow to their Serie A title hopes as they slip nine points behind Inter as under-fire Gennaro Gattuso picks up huge win against his former club at the San Siro
- Matteo Politano’s strike on 49 minutes was the difference as Napoli move fifth
- AC Milan are now nine points behind rivals Inter as their title hopes look slim
- The much-changed hosts threw on several regular starters to salvage something
- However, one of those substitutes Ante Rebic was dismissed for dissent late on
- Milan face Manchester United in their Europa League second leg on Thursday
AC Milan suffered a major blow to their Serie A title hopes as Matteo Politano’s second-half strike earned Napoli a 1-0 win on Sunday to leave the hosts nine points behind leaders Inter Milan in second place.
The Italian winger’s scuffed shot into the bottom corner after 49 minutes sealed a precious victory for the visitors’ Champions League qualification hopes, as they moved above AS Roma into fifth place on goal difference and two points behind Atalanta in fourth.
Milan struggled to break down a resolute Napoli defence and their frustration showed when substitute Ante Rebic was sent off for dissent in stoppage time.
Matteo Politano is congratulated by Lorenzo Insigne after his strike proved the difference
Diogo Dalot (left) made a loose pass before Napoli counterattacked rapidly and took the lead
Stefano Pioli’s side remain second on 56 points, but are now at risk of being dragged into the battle for a top four finish as Juventus are one point behind them in third and Napoli in fifth have 50 points and a game in hand.
‘We missed a chance as it could have been an exceptional week for us,’ Pioli told Sky Italia.
‘We played a good game against a great opponent. Now we must think about the next game against a strong team in Manchester United, and then about Fiorentina.
‘Inter have done very well since they were knocked out of Europe, but we’re just thinking about earning as many points as possible.’
Stefano Pioli fielded a much-changed side and threw on some regular AC Milan starters late on
The likes of Brahim Diaz and Alexis Saelemaekers were brought on to try and salvage a result
Fellow substitute Ante Rebic was sent off late on though as the hosts’ title hopes ended
Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso travelled to San Siro as an opposing manager for the first time after a hugely successful spell as a Milan player and two years as coach there between 2017 and 2019.
Milan looked to have turned around their flagging form last week with two impressive away results, beating Hellas Verona 2-0 before earning a 1-1 Europa League last-16 draw against Manchester United.
But they were without key players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer and captain Alessio Romagnoli through injury and Pioliâs tired-looking side were not at their best.
Milan great Gennaro Gattuso has helped Napoli up to fifth after masterminding a huge win
The hosts must now rally themselves ahead of a Europa League clash with Manchester United
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): G Donnarumma; Dalot, Tomori, Gabbia, Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie (Meite 67); Castillejo (Saelemaekers 60), Calhanoglu (Diaz 60), Krunic (Rebic 60); Leao (Hauge 79).
Subs not used: Kalulu, A Donnarumma, Tatarusanu, Kjaer.
Manager: Stefano Pioli
NAPOLI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Ruiz, Demme (Bakayoko 80); Politano (Rui 80), Zielinski (Elmas 75), Insigne; Mertens (Osimhen 59).
Subs not used: Zedadka, Cioffi, Contini Baranovsky, Meret, Lobotka, Costanzo.
Goals: Politano 49
Yellow: Maksimovic, Di Lorenzo
Manager: Gennaro Gattuso
Referee: Fabrizio Pasqua
Piotr Zielinski twice threatened for the visitors in the first half before Politano latched onto a pass from the Polish midfielder to fire in the decisive goal after the break.
Fabian Ruizâs vicious half volley required a strong parry from Gianluigi Donnarumma and Milanâs appeals for a penalty in the dying minutes were waved away after referee Fabrizio Pasqua consulted the pitchside VAR monitor and judged that Tiemoue Bakayoko had not fouled Theo Hernandez.
Tensions boiled over when Pasqua heard something he did not like from Rebic and flashed a red card at the Croatian.