AC Milan made it three wins in a row in Serie A as they scored twice in the second half to beat Lazio 2-0 at San Siro on Saturday evening.
After a frustrating first 45 minutes where Lazio aimed to frustrate, Milan got their breakthrough just before the hour mark as Christian Pulisic powered in a cut-back from Rafael Leao to open the scoring.
The Rossoneri were in command of the game from that point, and they got their second in the closing stages when Leao again found a team-mate with a pull-back from the byline, this time Noah Okafor benefitting as he came off the bench and netted his second for the club.
Lazio rarely threatened, and the win – plus another vital clean sheet – moves Milan three points clear at the top while waiting for Inter to play Salernitana in the late kick-off.
Stefano Pioli made a number of changes to the starting line-up that won against Cagliari in midweek as Mike Maignan, Davide Calabria, Simon Kjaer, Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud came in, with Milan’s 4-3-3 matching up with their opponents formation-wise.
Milan made a slow start to the game in truth as both sides were happy to feel each other out in the opening exchanges and wait for a mistake from their opponent, one which could have yielded the opener for the visitors.
The Rossoneri sloppily gave possession away in their own half after a miscommunication that Kjaer seemed most guilty of, and Felipe Anderson surged into the gap but slashed his effort into the side-netting when a square might have been on.
The first 25 minutes would best be described as ‘scrappy’ and were perhaps symbolised by Leao getting the ball stuck under his foot when one-on-one with his man in a dangerous position, and when Adli and Guendouzi flew into a challenge that nearly injured both of them.
Referee Davide Massa was beginning to draw some jeers from Milan fans for questionable decisions, such as when Christian Pulisic was bundled to the floor with no foul given and it led to Felipe Anderson firing over from distance.
Pioli was forced into an early change just before the half-hour mark as Ruben Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn in place of Yunus Musah. The Englishman headed straight down the tunnel, implying some kind of injury problem.
Provedel was tested for the first time in the 33rd minute as Leao managed to dribble into the box off the left and unleashed a powerful shot towards the near post that was parried behind for a corner.
Calabria was the next to go down after a Castellanos shot was easily saved by Maignan, as the Milan captain was caught by a flailing elbow from Zaccagni that VAR decided not to intervene with.
With one minute of normal time remaining in the first half, Milan were inches away from taking the lead. A good low cross from the right side was fired first time by Giroud at Provedel who parried to to the feet of Reijnders, who was off balance and tried to back-heel it in but could only hit the outside of the post.
The second half began in the same way the first half did, with the two teams again trying to string together moves but with the final ball not there.
Just before the hour mark, Milan got the opening goal and it was just as the pressure was building. A nice pass from Adli to Reijnders was then sent through to Leao, who had the composure to look up and pull it back from the byline for Pulisic to fire in first time.
There was a big chance to double the advantage a few minutes later when Lazio surrendered possession inside their own half and Tomori was the surprise leader of a three-on-two break, yet he went for goal and saw his shot blocked rather than feeding either of his team-mates.
With just over 20 minutes left, Pioli made three changes. Alessandro Florenzi came on for Davide Calabria, Tommaso Pobega replaced Yacine Adli and Olivier Giroud made way for Noah Okafor.
Musah was not far away from getting his first goal for a Milan in an excellent way as he pivoted brilliantly inside the box after claiming a loose ball and fired on the bounce, but Provedel made a smart save. From the resulting corner, Tomori had a free header from just behind the penalty spot that the Lazio keeper also claimed.
Provedel continued to be the busier of the two goalkeepers, again making a smart reaction stop to deny Pulisic who fired on goal first time from a similar spot to where he scored from after Theo’s cut-back.
Reijnders was the next player to have a chance with 12 minutes left on the clock. He picked up possession deep in Lazio’s half and dribbled past three players into the box, hitting the side netting with his eventual attempt.
The goal scorer Pulisic made way with eight minutes left on the clock as Samuel Chukwueze took his place in the final change of the game.
The Rossoneri’s defence wasn’t called into action much in either half but Florenzi stood up to the task perfectly when Isaksen was bearing down on goal after a weaving run, cutting out the danger with a great slide.
With just over two minutes of normal time left, Milan got their killer second goal. Again it was all Leao who created it down the left side with a run to the byline, and his perfect cut-back was fired in first time by Okafor for his second goal in as many games.
Lazio thought they had made it a nervy ending for the over 70,000 fans at San Siro when Pedro curled a shot into the top corner from distance, however Immobile was offside in the build-up and it didn’t stand.