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AC Milan 2-0 Lecce: Leao double boosts top-four hopes
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Rafael Leao celebrates for Milan on Sunday after his first-half strike at San Siro
Rafael Leao celebrates for Milan on Sunday after his first-half strike at San Siro

Rafael Leao scored a deadly double as AC Milan returned to winning ways in Serie A and boosted their Champions League qualification hopes with a 2-0 victory over Lecce.

Stefano Pioli's side reached the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday after a 2-1 aggregate win over Napoli, but their recent domestic league form had left much to be desired.

The Rossoneri had managed just one win in their last six league games but Leao scored in each half on Sunday at San Siro to halt that slide against their relegation-threatened visitors.

Victory moved Milan level on points with fourth-placed Roma, who visit Atalanta on Monday and three behind Juventus after the Bianconeri's 15-point deduction was reversed.

Wladimiro Falcone pushed away an early 25-yard drive from Sandro Tonali before Theo Hernandez thought he had won a penalty for Milan.

Daniele Chiffi pointed to the spot after a Federico Baschirotto tackle on Hernandez, only for the referee to reverse his decision after consulting the VAR and touchline monitor.

Lecce's Lameck Banda squandered a glorious 19th-minute opportunity when heading onto the left post from close range and Milan punished that miss five minutes before the break.

An inventive short-corner routine allowed Tonali to cross towards the back post, where Leao towered above Valentin Gendrey to head into the left corner.

Leao wastefully chipped over after 73 minutes but he made amends a minute later with a fine individual run and a low left-footed drive that went in off the right post.

What does it mean? Milan avoid Champions League hangover

Milan battled to a 1-1 draw at Napoli to secure their first last-four appearance in the Champions League since 2007 and they avoided any previously common signs of a dip in form following that achievement.

The Rossoneri had drawn their last two league matches after a Champions League game, along with three stalemates in their past five Serie A outings but Pioli's side were good value for victory over Lecce.

There remains the possibility Milan will not be playing in UEFA's top club competition next season, though, needing to overthrow Roma or Juve, or both, or win this year's Champions League outright.

Leao matches Ronaldo record

Leao was a central figure to Milan's Scudetto success last season, attracting interest from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.

The Milan winger became just the second Portuguese player to hit the 10-goal mark in two consecutive Serie A campaigns, after Cristiano Ronaldo did so for Juve three seasons in a row between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Defensive fragility costs Lecce again

Lecce are just two points clear of 18th-placed Cremonese and a place in the Serie A relegation zone, with their defensive issues a driving factor for their struggles.

They may be the only Italian top-flight side to have not conceded more than twice in a game this term, but Lecce's three clean sheets mark the worst record in the league.

Key Opta facts

Tonali has provided six assists in Serie A this season. Among midfielders, only Piotr Zielinski (seven), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (eight) and Filip Kostic (eight) have more in the Italian top flight.

Milan have kept three clean sheets in their last four Serie A matches, as many as in their previous 13 matches.

Leao scored his fourth double in Serie A and his first at San Siro since September 2022 (against Inter).

Lecce have lost four away games in a row in Serie A for the first time since December 2010.

What's next?

Milan face Roma on Saturday in a crucial clash in the top-four race, while Lecce host Udinese the day before.


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