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Milan close gap on Inter in Serie A

Milan (AFP) – Rade Krunic and Diogo Dalot scored in either half as AC Milan beat Hellas Verona 2-0 to close the gap on Serie A leaders Inter before next week’s Europa League trip to Manchester United.

Krunic curled in a free-kick after 27 minutes with Manchester United loanee Dalot doubling the visitors’ account five minutes after the break to pull Milan three points behind Inter, who host in-form Atalanta on Monday.

Champions Juventus are four points behind Milan in third, with a game in hand, after claiming their seventh straight win at home, 3-1 against Lazio on Saturday.

Despite the absence of key players including star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, winger Ante Rebic and defender Theo Hernandez, Milan kept the pressure on their city rivals two weeks after their 3-0 derby defeat.

Ibrahimovic, who has scored 14 goals in as many league games for the club, joined the team at Verona despite a leg muscle problem.

“Today we’ve shown that we are there, that we are a team and still believe,” said coach Stefano Pioli.

“We are stronger when we’re all together, but we’re also strong with absences. 

“Ibrahimovic arrived before the game, followed the technical meeting, and helped to stimulate us as great champions do. He is a pack leader.”

Rafael Leao started up front in Ibrahimovic’s absence, and the Portuguese forward threatened after quarter of an hour with a header which went over the bar.

The breakthrough came when Krunic was brought down just outside the box. The Bosnian midfielder dusted himself down and whipped a free-kick past a stunned Marco Silvestri from a tricky angle for his first league goal in Milan colours.

Defender Dalot also got off the mark in Serie A four minutes after the break, blasting in an Alexis Saelemaekers cross.

Milan took a valuable three points before they travel to Manchester for the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie with United before hosting Napoli in the league next weekend.

Verona, in eighth, fell to their first home defeat since losing to Inter before Christmas.

– Insigne double lifts Napoli –

Roma moved up to fourth, one point ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta thanks to a Gianluca Mancini goal, ahead of their Europa League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk in Rome.

Mancini jumped highest to turn in a Lorenzo Pellegrini corner after 24 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, beating second choice goalkeeper Federico Marchetti who replaced Mattia Perrin.

Roma sit nine points behind Inter after the win.

“One more step is missing to beat the big teams, we need to improve because something more is needed to reach the Champions League,” said Mancini.

In Naples, Lorenzo Insigne scored twice with Victor Osimhen adding a third as Napoli consolidated sixth place, three points off the Champions League berths, with a 3-1 win over Bologna.

Nigerian Osimhen returned after taking a knock to his head two weeks ago, coming off the bench eight minutes after the break.

A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off after the death of Mirko Pavinato, captain of the Bologna side who won the league in 1964.

Insigne opened the scoring after eight minutes, latching onto a Piotr Zielinski’s back-heel kick.

Osimhen scored eight minutes after coming on and was involved in Insigne’s second 12 minutes later off a rebound just after Roberto Soriano had pulled a goal back for Bologna.

Bottom side Crotone ended their seven-match losing streak with a 4-2 win over coronavirus-hit relegation rivals Torino. 

The Turin club’s last two games, against Sassuolo and Lazio, were unplayed because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Crotone are a point behind second-last Parma, who stretched their winless run to 17 games after defender Simone Iacopini turned into his own net just before the final whistle to hand 14th-placed Fiorentina a 3-3 draw.

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