AC Milan lost their first Serie A game in nine months as they were beaten 2-1 by Napoli at San Siro on Sunday night.
All three goals came in the second half as Napoli got their noses in front via a penalty that was awarded after a VAR review, with Matteo Politano scoring despite Mike Maignan guessing the right way.
Olivier Giroud popped up with another big goal to set up a grandstand finish with an equaliser, but it was Giovanni Simeone who ended up getting the winning goal for the Partenopei in the final 20 minutes of the game.
The result means Luciano Spalletti’s men have inflicted yet another one-goal defeat on Milan at San Siro and they move three points ahead along with Atalanta.
Stefano Pioli made a number of changes to the starting line-up as Simon Kjaer, Junior Messias, Charles De Ketelaere and Rade Krunic all came into the side following the midweek win over Dinamo Zagreb, with Rafael Leao of course out suspended.
There first flashpoint came inside the opening couple of minutes as Kvaratskhelia tried to burst past Kjaer down Napoli’s left wing but went to the floor clutching his face having overrun the ball claiming he got an arm in the face, though no foul was given.
Milan saw more of the ball in the early exchanges and the first half-chance fell to the big game man Olivier Giroud. A corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Theo Hernandez then fired it back into the danger area and his compatriot fired wide from deep inside the box first time.
Moments later it was Theo who again caused some problems, this time receiving a feed near the byline from Krunic and firing the ball across goal but De Ketelaere couldn’t quite stretch to meet it for a tap-in, though Giroud was also free for a cut-back that might have been a better choice.
Giroud continued to be at the heart of Milan’s opportunities, and he would have hoped to do better in the 12th minute when he flicked over a lovely cross from Tonali on the left. Moments later Alex Meret made his first big save when the 35-year-old striker was found inside the box and fired towards the top corner, but it was tipped onto the bar excellently.
All of the threat continued to come down Milan’s left as Giroud again headed over from a Theo cross, and then De Ketelaere turned supplier for the veteran striker but he acrobatically volleyed off target when Calabria might have been in a better position behind him to fire in.
Meret was again called into action as a corner from Milan’s right side went all the way to the far post where Krunic was waiting, though the Italian keeper was on hand to palm over the bar again and keep the Rossoneri frustrated.
Kvaratskhelia was the danger man highlighted for the away side with four goals already this season in the league, and his quick turns caused plenty of issues for Calabria and Kjaer who each went into the book in the first half.
The bookings caused Pioli to make a double change at half-time as he brought on both Pierre Kalulu and Sergino Dest to replace Kjaer and Calabria.
Kvaratskhelia continued to be at the centre of attention as he threw himself to the ground after being tackled by Dest inside the box. After a long VAR review, the referee Mariani decided to award a spot kick having adjudged the full-back to have kicked the Georgian’s foot. Mike Maignan guessed the right way, but the ball passed under his armpit as Matteo Politano scored from 12 yards.
Milan went in search of an equaliser and piled on the pressure, but up at the other end it was Zielinski who dragged a shot wide from around 20 yards out when he should have tested Maignan.
More changes came for Milan with 25 minutes left as Junior Messias and Brahim Diaz came on in place of Saelemaekers and Krunic.
Meret added another good save to his list from the game as he dived low to his right hand side to deny the substitute Messias whose sweeping first time shot from a De Ketelaere pass was heading inside the far post.
Theo Hernandez and Giroud had threatened to combine for a goal on so many occasions in the first half, and with just over 20 minutes left they did indeed combine for the equaliser. The full-back made one of his typical direct runs to the byline and cut back a perfect low ball to his compatriot who fired home first time with Meret this time stranded.
However, parity would not last long as Napoli got themselves back in front with just over 12 minutes left on the clock. An excellent cross from Mario Rui on the left flank was met by the head of Giovanni Simeone who scored with his first meaningful touch, glancing in with a deft header.
A final change came for the Rossoneri inside the final ten minutes with Yacine Adli coming on for De Ketelaere.
Milan were inches away from levelling the game for a second time via an unlikely source. Theo Hernandez rolled a ball into the box that Giroud got a slight touch on through to Kalulu, who hit the crossbar from deep inside the area when he really had to score.
The Diavolo caused chaos late on as they launched ball after ball into the box and had a flurry of late corners, but it just wasn’t to be as Milan lost their first league game since January.