Milan (AFP) – Norwegian midfielder Jens Petter Hauge snatched a late equaliser to salvage a point for title-chasing AC Milan whose poor home run continued with a 1-1 draw against 10-man Sampdoria on Saturday.
Atalanta and Napoli closed the gap on second-placed Milan with hard fought wins over Udinese and Crotone.
Milan are five points behind leaders Inter Milan, who travel to Bologna later on Saturday with two games in hand on their city rivals.
“At this moment Inter have the Scudetto (league title) in their hands, only they can lose it,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli, whose side have not won at home in almost two months.
Atalanta moved two points behind Milan into third position with Napoli two points further back in fourth, one ahead of fifth-placed Juventus ahead of the champions’ city derby at Torino later on Saturday.
“Milan have complicated life for themselves,” continued Pioli of the missed opportunity against mid-table Sampdoria.
“When mentally you can’t get into the game right away then the difficulties of the match increase. Today we paid dearly.”
Sampdoria dominated the first half an hour with Milan staying in the game thanks to saves from goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who denied Manolo Gabbiadini early and a Morten Thorsby header.
The hosts were on the back foot after a foolish Theo Hernandez pass across midfield after 57 minutes allowed veteran Fabio Quagliarella to pounce and send a long-range lob over Donnarumma who was out of his goal.
It was the 38-year-old Quagliarella’s 10th goal this campaign, reaching double figures for the fifth consecutive league season, with his 174 Serie A goals making him the top scorer active in the Italian top flight.
Claudio Ranieri’s side went a man down just after their goal with Adrien Silva sent off after picking up a second yellow card.
– ‘No excuses’ –
Ante Rebic came off the bench for the hosts and threatened with Hakan Calhanoglu denied by Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero before substitute Hauge broke through beating the rival defence and curling the ball into the corner.
The hosts missed a chance for a late winner with Zlatan Ibrahimovic sending through for Franck Kessie who rattled the woodwork.
“There are no excuses,” said Pioli as Milan’s push for a first league title since 2011 has been hampered by their poor home form with just two wins out of eight home games in the league in 2021.
“There is disappointment, bitterness and anger.”
The seven-time European champions’ hopes of Champions League football next season are also threatened.
Atalanta continued their push for a third season of elite European football with a 3-2 win over Udinese which came thanks to a first-half Luis Muriel brace and Duvan Zapata adding a third after the hour mark in Bergamo.
Udinese, in 12th position, scored though Roberto Pereyra before half-time and Stryger Larsen with 20 minutes to go.
Napoli claimed their fourth consecutive win, but not without a battle from bottom side Crotone who lost a dramatic contest 4-3.
Lorenzo Insigne picked up a Giovanni Di Lorenzo pull back for the opener the 19th minute in Naples, and then had a role in Victor Osimhen’s second minutes later.
The points looked to be secured for Napoli when club record scorer Dries Mertens added a third from a free-kick after half an hour.
However Crotone fought back to 3-3 largely thanks to a double from Nigerian Simy the 25th and 48th minutes.
But Di Lorenzo made sure the home side did take the win with his 72nd-minute strike.
Roma stretched their winless run to a three matches with a 2-2 stalemate at Sassuolo.
The Romans drop to seventh behind city rivals Lazio, who beat Spezia 2-1 thanks to a Felipe Caicedo penalty awarded after a VAR review in the 88th minute.
Fiorentina held on for a 1-1 draw at Genoa despite playing with a man down after Franck Ribery’s sending off on 51 minutes for a dangerous tackle on defender Davide Zappacosta.