September 2, 2023

Serie A: Ten-man Milan maintain 100 percent start at Roma

Serie A: Ten-man Milan maintain 100 percent start at Roma

and AC Milan’s French defender #20 Pierre Kalulu Kyatengwa (L) and AC Milan’s German defender #28 Malick Thiaw (R) fight for the ball with Roma’s Belgian forward #90 Romelu Lukaku (C) during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and AC Milan at the Olympic stadium in Rome on September 1, 2023. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

AC Milan continued their perfect start to the new Serie A season with Friday’s straightforward 2-1 win at Roma who struggled even after Romelu Lukaku made his debut from the bench.

An early Olivier Giroud penalty and Rafael Leao’s stunning volley two minutes after half-time gave Milan a deserved victory at the Stadio Olimpico and took their points tally to nine after three games.

Stefano Pioli’s side were worthy winners in the Italian capital despite having to play the final half an hour with 10 men after central defender Fikayo Tomori was sent off for two bookable offences.

Milan have brought in a host of new faces over a busy summer and Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders all performed well again as Milan moved three points ahead of Verona, Inter Milan and Napoli.

Champions Napoli host Lazio on Saturday night while Inter take on Fiorentina at the San Siro on Sunday with the two Milan giants facing off in the first derby of the season straight after the coming international break.

“Every match is a test that needs to be passed, and that will be a tough test because they’re a worthy opponent,” said Pioli to DAZN.

“The derby has come early in the season… we both want the second star (for 20 league titles) on our shirt and it will be a good chance to get a measure of ourselves.”

Leonardo Spinazzola netted in stoppage time for Roma who have a single point from their first three matches and have dropped into the relegation zone, a place above local rivals Lazio.

Jose Mourinho’s side are also in the midst of an injury crisis just weeks into the new campaign, with Houssem Aouar picking up a thigh knock in the first half and joining Paulo Dybala, Sardar Azmoun and Renato Sanches on the treatment table.

Not even the introduction of star loan signing Lukaku not long after Tomori’s dismissal could salvage something for a poor performance against Milan who look a serious candidate for the league title.

– Lukaku not enough –

Milan were the better team throughout a niggly contest and had the lead in the ninth minute when Rui Patricio was judged to have kicked Ruben Loftus-Cheek after the England international miscontrolled the ball while charging through on goal.

An outraged Mourinho sarcastically applauded the decision on the sidelines before veteran France striker Giroud stroked in his fourth goal of the season.

The away side would have been two ahead in the 22nd minute had Patricio not made up for his previous clumsiness by brilliantly keeping out Christian Pulisic’s close-range volley.

But there was nothing Patricio could do about the goal which doubled Milan’s lead, Leao getting goal side of Zeki Celik and brilliantly placing Davide Calabria’s cross in off the post while falling to the turf.

“I’ve been trying to score that goal for three years!” a delighted Leao later told Sky Sport.

Milan were firmly in control until Tomori was sent off in the 61st minute for a pointless foul on Andrea Belotti, and with 20 minutes remaining Mourinho rolled the dice and brought on Lukaku.

However a snapshot not long after being brought was all the Belgium striker managed to drum up in a finale which was made frantic after Spinazzola’s effort was deflected past Mike Maignan but didn’t change the final result.

Earlier Domenico Berardi netted twice on his season debut for Sassuolo, a 3-1 win over Verona which got his team off the mark.

Italy forward Berardi had been dropped for Sassuolo’s first two matches, defeats to Atalanta and Napoli, as he pushed for a move to Juventus which never materialised.

And he was on the spot to hand the hosts their first win of the campaign, the 29-year-old involved in Andrea Pinamonti’s 11th minute opener before bagging his brace in 10 second half minutes after Cyril Ngonge had equalised.