Milan (AFP) – AC Milan won the Serie A title for the first time since 2011 on Sunday, a triumph which signals the return of one of Europe’s biggest clubs to the upper echelons of the game after years of poor results and financial problems.
Here AFP looks at where the Scudetto was won for Stefano Pioli’s team:
– Giroud sinks Inter –
For 70 minutes of the season’s second Milan derby Inter Milan looked like they would take another step towards an inevitable second league crown in as many years.
The hosts had dominated their local rivals and were only stopped from having scored more than once by an immense Mike Maignan in the Milan goal.
A seven-point lead with a game in hand appeared guaranteed until Olivier Giroud stunned the San Siro with a quickfire brace which flipped the derby, and the title race, on its head.
Inter only won one of their next seven league matches and didn’t get back on course until they beat Juventus in Turin in early April.
– Going top –
France forward Giroud again showed himself to be a big game player in early March when he grabbed the only goal in a 1-0 win at Napoli, who were themselves well in with a shout of their first title since 1990.
That win moved Milan top and they were never shifted from the summit, two draws with Bologna and Torino their only dropped points between the success at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona and the confirmation of a historic league crown.
– Radu howler hurts Inter –
Just as Inter were ready to retake control of the title race one of the most horrendous goalkeeper howlers of the season from Ionut Radu handed the initiative to Milan and left the champions needing a helping hand.
Since January Inter had a game in hand at Bologna, one of four matches called off and eventually rescheduled after a winter spike of Covid-19 cases across Italy.
A win at the Stadio Dall’Ara at the end of April would have moved Inter a point ahead of Milan at the top but after taking an early lead through Ivan Perisic, Marko Arnautovic levelled and with nine minutes remaining Radu left fans open-mouthed in shock.
Few could believe their eyes when in his first Serie A start of the season Radu misjudged a throw-in under pressure from Nicola Sansone to the point that the Italy international was able to tap in the winner from inches out.
A draw would have left Inter trailing but losing in that fashion gave Milan a huge psychological boost after also coming from behind to win in the final seconds at Lazio three days before.
– Napoli crumble –
The title race might have ended as a Milanese affair but in early April Napoli looked a strong bet to claim their first Scudetto since the days of Diego Maradona.
Luciano Spalletti’s team were a point behind Milan after an impressive win at Atalanta but defeats to Fiorentina and Empoli, plus a home draw with rivals Roma which came after conceding at the death, brought southern Italy’s biggest club crashing back down to earth.
The 3-2 Empoli loss was particularly galling as Napoli were two goals ahead with 10 minutes left but collapsed under no apparent pressure.
It took another two weeks for Napoli to be mathematically ruled out but those three results dealt such a blow that Spalletti conceded the title almost as soon as the Empoli match was over.
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