MILAN:AC Milan stayed in touch with the Serie A summit on Wednesday, a 4-2 win at Empoli moving them into second after Napoli’s shock 1-0 home defeat to struggling Spezia.
Stefano Pioli’s side stayed four points behind city rivals and league leaders Inter Milan, who were 1-0 winners over Torino, heading into the winter break thanks to Franck Kessie’s first-half brace and further goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Theo Hernandez.
The win allowed Milan to reclaim a second spot from Napoli after their controversial loss at the hands of Luciano Spalletti’s team at the weekend and leaves the seven-time European champions as the principal pretenders to Inter’s Serie A crown.
“Every win is worth three points but there are moments in the season when certain victories have a bigger impact than others and tonight was one of them so I’m very happy,” said Pioli to DAZN.
Milan are three points ahead of third-placed Napoli who, still afflicted by a host of absences, were sunk by a Juan Jesus own goal in the 37th minute which ended Spezia’s run of six matches without a win and moves them five points away from the relegation zone in 17th.
A fine team display in Tuscany meanwhile blew away some of the dark clouds hovering over Milan following their humiliating flop in the Champions League and just two wins in their previous seven league matches which allowed red-hot Inter to take the initiative in the title race.
Kessie opened the scoring with a first-time strike from Olivier Giroud’s lay-off in the 12th minute but it looked like it would be another uncomfortable night for Milan when Nedim Bajrami levelled only six minutes later.
However Kessie, who was denied a last-gasp equaliser against Napoli by VAR on Sunday, reestablished the away side’s lead shortly before the break with a low drive from a tight angle which fizzed between Guglielmo Vicario’s legs.
Two quick-fire strikes midway through the second ensured the points for Milan, with Florenzi scoring his first Rossoneri goal from a 63rd-minute free-kick before Hernandez lashed home the fourth from close range.