AC Milan retained their Serie A lead after beating Fiorentina 1-0 at the San Siro on Sunday, thanks to a goalkeeping error by Pietro Terracciano.
Rafael Leao took advantage of a poor clearing by Terracciano to fire in a low effort that kept Milan in contention for their first league championship since 2011 and extended their lead over rivals Inter Milan to five points – at least for a few hours.
Terracciano then buried his head in his arms as he sat dejected on the San Siro field, while Leao’s goal drove the fans into a frenzy despite the fact that he confined his celebration to a bare minimum – just making the form of a heart with his fingers.
“Scoring a key goal is the finest moment for a player,” Leao added. “But the most important thing was the win since we worked hard and were probably a little nervous in front of the goal.”
“We’re in great form right now… we all need to stick together to make sure we reach our objective.”
Inter Milan trimmed their lead back to two points later on Sunday with a 2-1 victory against Udinese, courtesy of goals from Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martinez.
However, Stefano Pioli’s club is further bolstered by their better Milan derby record, which would keep the seven-time European winners ahead of Inter even if they finish up even on points.
Until Leao’s goal, the hosts seemed to be having a miserable day, with Olivier Giroud squandering the first of a succession of fine opportunities with 15 minutes on the clock when he inexplicably fluffed his dinked shot wide after being sent through by Franck Kessie.
After a succession of botched passes in excellent situations thwarted potential attempts, the home supporters’ nerves began to fray, and the large audience had their heads in their hands two minutes after the interval when Leao slammed over from close range after being served by Giroud.
Theo Hernandez, a persistent threat on the left, prodded over Sandro Tonali’s slick-through pass after Kessie had an angled drive well saved.
In the 65th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was brought in an effort to force a victory, but it was Fiorentina who almost took the lead when Arthur Cabral’s 76th-minute header was superbly saved by Mike Maignan.
Leao, on the other hand, made it a party when he collected Terracciano’s poor kick, sprinted towards goal, and tucked home a finish that may be pivotal in an entertaining championship chase.