Milan (AFP) – AC Milan shrugged off the absence of injured star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to consolidate their lead in Serie A on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Fiorentina.
Milan pulled five points clear of city rivals Inter Milan and Sassuolo, with AS Roma and Juventus six points adrift.
But Lazio slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Udinese, days before their Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund, in a victory paved by the visitors’ Argentina players on a day Serie A paid tribute to Diego Maradona.
Serie A top scorer Ibrahimovic watched from the stands after picking up a muscle injury last weekend. Head coach Stefano Pioli was absent recovering from coronavirus, but Milan extended their unbeaten run in the league this season.
Franck Kessie set up Alessio Romagnoli for the opener after 17 minutes with the Ivorian forward adding a second from the penalty spot 10 minutes later.
Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski denied Kessie a second in the first half after Martin Caceres fouled Theo Hernandez.
Franck Ribery missed chances for Fiorentina with Gianluigi Donnarumma holding firm in the Milan goal.
Pioli spoke to the team by video link after the game.
“Pioli congratulated everyone for winning this very important match,” said Kessie.
“It’s like this on penalties, either your score or miss, but I’ll still take the next one.”
New Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli fell to his second defeat in as many games, with his side above the relegation zone without a goal in their last four games.
In Rome, Lazio’s players took to the pitch with special edition ‘AD10S’ jersies in honour of former Argentina and Napoli great Maradona who died last week aged 60.
But the hosts trailed after quarter of an hour when Argentine Roberto Pereyra set up Turkish midfielder Tolgay Arslan for Udinese’s first goal against Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico in six years.
Rodrigo De Paul then set up fellow Argentine Ignacio Pussetto for the second just before the break, and provided the assist for another compatriot Fernando Forestieri’s third midway through the second half.
After his goal, Pussetto opened his two hands wide, to symbolise the number 10, Maradona’s jersey number.
Forestieri dedicated the success to Maradona after the match: “This victory is for him!”
“After the goal I felt like crying, Diego was the greatest of all time,” said Forestieri.
Lazio looked weary after the 3-1 Champions League win over Zenit Saint Petersburg, but pulled a goal back through a Ciro Immobile penalty after 74 minutes.
The Romans are midtable in ninth, nine points behind AC Milan.
“It’s a bad defeat, we need to reset as soon as possible,” said coach Simone Inzaghi, whose side have picked up five points in five home games this season.
“We knew that the Champions League saps energy, other teams also struggled this weekend, but I expected more from the lads.
“We all take responsibility, me first of all.”
The north-eastern side achieved back-to-back wins for the first time this season, to move up to 12th.
– Napoli tribute –
Maradona’s former club Napoli host Roma later on Sunday with tributes planned for their legendary No 10 who led the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.
Napoli will wear a jersey reminiscent of Argentina’s for their first league game since his death.
The launch of this new jersey had already been planned before Maradona’s death, Napoli said.
“A year ago, together with Kappa, we thought of designing a special jersey that echoes Diego Maradona, his beloved Argentina and the very strong bond with the people of Naples,” Napoli said in a statement.
“Together we hoped that Diego could see it, maybe wear it and share in the excitement with us.
“The presentation of the new kit had already been agreed for the ninth matchday of the championship, on the occasion of the SSC Napoli-Roma match.
“The Kombat that will be worn by the players tonight will have an even greater significance than initially assumed.”
A minute’s silence has been observed before all games in memory of Maradona with a photo of the former Argentina and Napoli star projected on giant screens in the 10th minute, as players stopped to applaud.
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