MILAN CUT THE GAP ATOP SERIE A DESPITE NERVY FINALE
Milan overcame an anxious finale to start 2023 with a win thanks to early goals from Rafael Leão and Sandro Tonali.
Scorers: Bonazzoli 83′; Leão 10′, Tonali 15′
On six minutes, debuting Salernitana goalkeeper and World Cup legend Guillermo Ochoa showed why he may be such a big signing for his new side when he made a sprawling save with his legs to deny Leão after he had raced clear with a ruthless turn of pace.
But from an almost identical situation moments later, the Mexican was caught a long way from home and this time, Leão opted to go around the goalkeeper before finishing from a very tight angle for his eighth goal of the season.
Ochoa’s tough welcome to life in Italy continued and he was forced to pick the ball out of his net again on 15 minutes as Tonali drilled an emphatic low strike past him from just inside the area.
Olivier Giroud went close either side of half-time for a Rossoneri side who, despite their injuries, looked much improved on the team that struggled throughout their recent winter friendlies.
They thought they’d added a third on 58 minutes but Fikayo Tomori’s goalbound effort was ruled out after a pitchside check after it was ruled that an offside Brahim Díaz had attempted to divert it in en route to goal, although it was not conclusive that the Spaniard had actually made contact with the ball.
And after that miss, and a Salernitana let-off when Domagoj Bradarić’s red card was overturned, the hosts set up a grandstand finish when Federico Bonazzoli popped up at the back post to squeeze an attempt home.
But they couldn’t find a leveller (with Ochoa actually the busier of the two goalkeepers in the closing stages) and stay 13th, while the champions close the gap on leaders Napoli to five points ahead of their clash with Inter later.