Milan (AFP) – Theo Hernandez nodded in a late winner to keep AC Milan top of Serie A heading into the winter break with a 3-2 victory over Lazio on Wednesday.
Milan are one point ahead of city rivals Inter who earlier extended their winning run to seven games with a 2-1 success over Hellas Verona.
Lazio had come from two goals down thanks to Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile but French defender Hernandez headed in his third goal in as many games in injury time to seal all three points.
Milan shook off the continued absence of injured star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to continue their unbeaten run which goes back to last March as they target a first Serie A title since 2011.
The two Milan clubs have surged ahead of their rivals, with Roma moving up to third, six points behind Inter, after a 3-2 win over Cagliari.
“The key thing now is stay around the top of the table,” said Inter coach Antonio Conte.
“We have to keep going down this road. We’re focusing on ourselves and doing the best we can.
“It’s a seventh consecutive league win, that has to build morale and confidence.”
Napoli dropped from third to fifth, two points behind Roma, despite Lorenzo Insigne scoring late to rescue a 1-1 draw at home with rock-bottom Torino.
Reigning champions Juventus are sixth — 10 points adrift of top spot — after crashing to their first Serie A defeat of the season, 3-0 at home against Fiorentina on Tuesday.
“It’ll certainly be a more even league, because many teams have strengthened and want to have their say,” added Conte, as the Milan clubs try to deny Juventus a 10th consecutive Scudetto.
Sassuolo moved up fourth with a 3-2 win over Sampdoria as seventh-placed Atalanta were held 2-2 at Bologna.
At the San Siro, Ante Rebic headed in the opener for Milan from a Hakan Calhanoglu corner on 10 minutes, with the Turkish midfielder adding a second from the penalty spot seven minutes later.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved an Immobile penalty but Luis Alberto headed in the rebound.
But Lazio’s top scorer grabbed the equaliser before the hour mark, finishing off a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic cross for his ninth league goal of the campaign, only for Hernandez to have the final say.
– Martinez strikes for Inter –
In Verona, Inter extended their winning run as they target a first Scudetto since 2010 with their European hopes now over.
Lautaro Martinez broke through in the 52nd minute, connecting with an Achraf Hakimi cross to volley in his sixth goal this season and first since November 8.
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Ivan Ilic pulled the hosts level on 63 minutes after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic let a Davide Faraoni cross slip, with Milan Skriniar failing to stop the Serb tapping in his first Verona goal.
But Slovak Skriniar made up for his error six minutes later, getting his head to a Marcelo Brozovic cross to beat Verona ‘keeper Marco Silvestri.
“We showed great ruthlessness and determination,” said Conte.
“Now, they all need to make the most of this break to rest a bit because nobody has had any time off this year. They need to unplug for a few days and then be even readier to go again.”
Inter equalled their best goalscoring start to a season since 1960/1961, when they also scored 34 goals after 14 games.
In Rome, Jordan Veretout scored the opener on 11 minutes, with Edin Dzeko also on target in the second half before Gianluca Mancini’s header proved decisive with 13 minutes remaining.
Joao Pedro scored both Cagliari goals, the second from the penalty spot in injury time.
New Genoa coach Davide Ballardini got off to a winning start, 2-1 at promoted Spezia, for just their second victory of the season and first since September 20.
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