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AC Milan Stroll Past Lecce, Roma Claim Derby Honours

Early goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud, and Rafael Leao's neat finish shortly before the hour mark, were enough for Milan to move 11 points behind runaway leaders Inter Milan, who are at struggling Udinese on Monday.


roma-lazio
Roma’s Italian defender #23 Gianluca Mancini celebrates with teammate Roma’s Belgian midfielder #90 Romelu Lukaku and supporters after scoring the team’s first goal during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Lazio on April 6, 2024 at the Olympic stadium in Rome. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

AC Milan strolled past 10-man Lecce 3-0 on Saturday to consolidate second place in Serie A as Roma beat local rivals Lazio 1-0 and boosted their Champions League hopes.

Early goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud, and Rafael Leao’s neat finish shortly before the hour mark, were enough for Milan to move 11 points behind runaway leaders Inter Milan, who are at struggling Udinese on Monday.

But with the title all but decided Stefano Pioli’s in-form side are close to securing Champions League football as they lead third-placed Juventus by nine points after a seventh straight win in all competitions.

Juve host Fiorentina on Sunday with just seven points from their last nine league fixtures and the Turin giants could find themselves fourth before kick-off should Bologna win at Frosinone.

A straightforward win at the San Siro was also perfect preparation for Milan’s Italian derby in the Europa League quarter-finals with Roma.

“We feel good, we played the game as we’d planned it in training… now we need to think about the Europa League quarter-final which is a completely different type of match and a big objective for both teams,” Pioli told DAZN.

Lecce stay 13th, four points above the relegation zone, but were livid about two decisions which contributed to their heavy defeat.

Nikola Krstovic was stunned at being shown a straight red card on the stroke of half-time for accidentally studding Samuel Chukwueze.

The away side were already heading to a loss by that point as Pulisic’s deflected strike sent Milan on the way to three points after five minutes before Giroud glanced home Yacine Adli’s corner 14 minutes later.

Leao then added Milan’s third in the 57th minute while Lecce winger Pontus Almqvist was prone on the ground after first being shoulder barged over by Theo Hernandez and then accidentally kneed in the head by the France left-back.

Lecce owner Saverio Sticchi Damiani was shown ironically applauding from the stands as home fans celebrated Leao’s sixth league goal of the season.

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Roma’s derby delight

Daniele De Rossi’s Roma won their first local derby in more than two years and made sure of fifth spot in Italy’s top flight for another week, five points ahead of Atalanta who are at Cagliari on Sunday and have another game in hand.

Serie A is leading the race for an extra spot in next year’s Champions League, meaning a top-five finish could be enough for Roma to qualify for Europe’s leading club competition for the first time since 2018.

Gianluca Mancini ensured Roma would have bragging rights in the capital city with a bullet header three minutes before half-time at the Stadio Olimpico.

Italy defender Mancini thumped home his fifth goal of the season from Paulo Dybala’s corner to give Roma a deserved win, after which both players jumped into the stands to celebrate with delirious fans.

“My heart’s still thumping… I’m the happiest man in the world,” said Mancini to DAZN.

“We hadn’t won a derby for a long time so this is for them (the fans), they deserve it. The goal is a great feeling once the game is over but the important thing was making sure we got the points.”

Former Roma captain De Rossi won his first Rome derby as coach at the first attempt after four without a win under his predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Nominal hosts Roma were unlucky not to win more convincingly as they had the better of the chances and Stephan El Shaarawy struck a great chance against the post just after half-time.

De Rossi was also boosted by the return of England international striker Tammy Abraham, who replaced Dybala with 11 minutes remaining to make his first appearance since tearing knee ligaments at the end of last season.

Lazio are nine points behind Roma in seventh and can be overtaken this weekend by Napoli, Fiorentina and Torino, who are at Empoli in Saturday’s late match.

AFP