After a trying week, Rafael Leao scored the game’s lone goal in AC Milan’s 1-0 victory against Verona on Saturday to tie the team with Serie A leaders Inter Milan. Meanwhile, Juventus suffered their first loss of the year, 4-2 at Sassuolo.
At a sodden San Siro, Portugal’s Leao scored his third goal in as many league games in the eighth minute, propelling Milan up to second place with 12 points from five games.
On Sunday, Inter defends their perfect start against Empoli.
Leao’s victory was one of the few bright spots in a generally lackluster showing by a significantly altered Milan team without injured captain Davide Calabria and the two French players Mike Maignan and Theo Hernandez.
However, it was a pleasant three points after their humiliation at the hands of local rivals Inter last weekend and their inability to take use of their superiority in Tuesday’s Champions League draw with Newcastle United.
Following subpar performances in both games, Milan’s top player Leao—wearing the captain’s armband in Calabria’s absence—answered some of his detractors. He even became a laughing stock when he tripped over his own feet while attempting to backheel in a goal against Newcastle.
Coach Stefano Pioli of Milan said, “He just needs to keep going and realize that when you become a great player you need to overcome or at least deal with a lot of pressure.”
Due to an unexpected hailstorm that rocked Milan, kickoff was delayed by about thirty minutes. The visiting supporters then disrupted the minute of silence that was observed before the game in memory of former Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, who passed away on Friday at the age of 98.
As president from 2006 to 2015, Napolitano was a prominent figure in the Italian Communist Party from the 1970s until its breakup in 1991. Meanwhile, Verona’s fanatical supporters are among the most right-wing in a nation where fascist fan clubs are pervasive.
In their team’s 1-1 home tie with Monza, a sizable portion of Lazio supporters—known for being on the far-right—also jeered and sung during the minute of mourning.
While both sets of players were honouring former Italy midfielder Giovanni Lodetti, Milan fans overwhelmed the Verona supporters with fervent applause.
In the 1960s, Lodetti—who also passed away on Friday at the age of 81—won two Serie A championships and two European Cups while playing for Milan under the legendary Gianni Rivera. Lodetti was also a member of the Azzurri squad that won the 1968 European Championship at home.
Poor Szczesny’s day
After suffering a terrible, mistake-filled loss at Sassuolo, Juventus is now two points behind the Milan teams in fourth place.
After Wojciech Szczesny parried Armand Lauriente’s attempt to the Italy international, Andrea Pinamonti scored his fourth goal of the year in the 82nd minute. Federico Gatti’s own goal in stoppage time ensured Sassuolo’s victory just as Juve were headed for a thrilling finish.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN, “We had our heads in the clouds… we started OK but we had some good opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”
“We lost our minds after they scored on their first effort at goal.”
A shot by Domenico Berardi restored the hosts’ advantage four minutes after Matias Vina’s own goal had leveled the score. It was a terrible day for Poland goalkeeper Szczesny, who was at fault for Lauriente’s opening in the 12th minute.
Additionally, Gatti received a poor ball from Szczesny, which the youthful defender strangely volleyed back into his own goal.
Juventus had targeted Berardi throughout the summer, but they were unable to get Sassuolo to sell the Italy winger, who celebrated his 300th Serie A appearance with his 116th league goal.
Federico Chiesa felt he had opened up an opportunity to steal the point for Juventus with a deflected effort, but Pinamonti’s goal followed four minutes later.
Despite Chiesa’s fourth goal of the year, Allegri’s squad lost badly and didn’t help Juventus advance.