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Milan trail leaders Napoli by nine after Lecce draw

AC Milan’s Serie A title defence suffered another blow on Saturday as despite coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Lecce the champions sit nine points behind rampant league leaders Napoli.

Rafeal Leao and Davide Calabria struck to pull Milan back from a dismal first-half display which left them trailing to a Theo Hernandez own-goal and Federico Baschirotto’s well-placed header.

Stefano Pioli’s side showed fight to level against promoted Lecce, who beat Atalanta and Lazio in their last two matches at the Stadio Via Del Mare.

But the draw, which moved second-placed Milan a point above Juventus who were ripped to pieces by Napoli on Friday night, concludes a poor week which has severely compromised their bid to retain the Scudetto.

It comes after throwing away a two-goal lead in the final minutes against Roma last weekend and then being dumped out of the Italian Cup at the last 16 stage by 10-man Torino midweek.

“We’ll believe in it right until the end. Now we need to look at what we did badly and what we did better,” said midfielder Ismael Bennacer when asked if Milan still had hopes of holding on to their title.

“We’re a good team, when we have these problems we’re capable of resolving them on the pitch.”

Milan, who travel to Saudi Arabia for Wednesday’s Italian Super Cup against Inter Milan, now only lead their local rivals by a point after Lautaro Martinez shot them to a 1-0 win over struggling Verona.

The seven-times European champions were lucky to be only two goals down at the break of an entertaining match as Lecce had two great chances to secure an unassailable lead.

Federico Di Francesco slid wide from close range early on before clipping in a perfect cross for Valentin Gendrey who headed wide with the goal at his mercy in the 26th minute, at which point the hosts were already two ahead.

‘Everything wrong’

“We got everything wrong that we could have possibly got wrong in the first half. We made silly mistakes and from that point on it was an uphill struggle,” Pioli told DAZN.

And after Calabria headed Milan level in the 70th minute they rarely threatened to snatch the three points, with Fikayo Tomori almost handing Lecce the win late when he nearly diverted Antonino Gallo’s cross into his own goal.

“We had the Italian champions in front of us… if you don’t get after them and press them you’ll end up in trouble,” said Lecce coach Marco Baroni.

“We’re a newly promoted team, we want to create a space for ourselves… with these results we’re getting closer to doing that.”

Lecce are 12th and a point behind Monza, who saw off bottom team Cremonese 3-2 to continue a remarkable first-ever season in Italy’s top flight.

Monza were in the third tier when former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi bought the club in 2018 for a reported three million euros.

Now they sit 11th after their seventh win under 38-year-old Raffaele Palladino — who took charge in mid-September — thanks to Patrick Ciurria’s eighth-minute opener and goals in each half from Gianluca Caprari.

Monza are unbeaten in four matches and look good bets to stay up, unlike Cremonese who are still yet to win in their first Serie A campaign since 1996 and later sacked coach Massimiliano Alvini in a bid to salvage their season.

Italian media report that former Genoa, Cagliari and Palermo coach Davide Ballardini is in line to fill the vacant position.

Standings provided by Sofascore

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