Milan’s title defence in tatters after home humbling by Sassuolo

Sassuolo's players celebrate after Sassuolo's Brazilian midfielder Matheus Henrique scored the team's fifth goal during the Italian Serie A football match between AC Milan and Sassuolo, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, on January 29, 2023. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)
Sassuolo’s players celebrate after Sassuolo’s Brazilian midfielder Matheus Henrique scored the team’s fifth goal during the Italian Serie A football match between AC Milan and Sassuolo, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, on January 29, 2023. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

AC Milan’s season went even further off the rails on Sunday after a humiliating 5-2 home defeat at the hands of Sassuolo left them at risk of dropping out of the Champions League places.

Everything that could go wrong for troubled Milan did at a gloriously sunny San Siro, with two goals ruled out for offside and a shocking defensive display condemning the champions to another heavy loss after also being hammered by Lazio and Inter Milan in the last 10 days.

Stefano Pioli’s side dropped down to fourth and will find themselves a whopping 15 points off the Scudetto pace if league leaders Napoli beat fierce rivals Roma in Sunday’s late match.
Milan’s title defence lays in tatters and they will also drop out of Serie A’s top four if either Roma or Lazio, who host Fiorentina later in the day, avoid defeat.

Next up is the derby against second-placed Inter who thumped Milan 3-0 in the Super Cup less than a fortnight ago as Milan try to end a slump which began with throwing away a two-goal lead to draw with Roma three weeks ago.

“We have to react, we’re probably not going to win the title again but we have to fight to qualify for the Champions League,” said Pioli to Sky in Italy.

“Ever since we drew with Roma we’ve not been able to do things right tactically or mentally.”

Domenico Berardi was the star man for Sassuolo, who are 16th after winning for the first time since late October, the Italian having a hand in Gregoire Defrel and Davide Frattesi’s goals which put his team two ahead after just 20 minutes.

Olivier Giroud, who had a fine early finish disallowed, then headed Milan back into the game but Berardi reestablished Sassuolo’s two-goal lead with a header of his own from a 30th-minute corner.

Milan collapse
Pioli brought on Rafael Leao at half-time after leaving his star attacker out of the starting line-up but Milan were three goals down seconds after the restart, Armand Lauriente smashing home a penalty after being brought down by Davide Calabria.

And an awful afternoon turned into a nightmare when, after Ante Rebic had a goal chalked off for a razor-thin offside, Matheus Henrique drilled in the fifth with 11 minutes remaining from a Berardi pass.
That left Divock Origi to curl home a beautiful but entirely irrelevant consolation goal for the hosts.

“Today we approached the game really well and we’ve sent a strong signal that this is the team we are,” said Berardi.

“Milan are having difficulties, it can happen in a period of the season when you play lots of matches but we’re still talking about a great team in their stadium, to come here and win isn’t easy.”

Later Paul Pogba could make his first Juventus appearance since returning from Manchester United last summer after being named among the substitutes for their clash with surprise package Monza.

France midfielder Pogba injured the meniscus in his right knee in July and missed out on the World Cup.

He initially elected not to go under the knife in a bid to make the Qatar tournament but despite later changing his mind he didn’t recover in time to play for Les Bleus.

Juventus sit 11th in Serie A after being docked 15 points for illicit transfer activity and will be overtaken by promoted Monza should the Turin giants lose to the club owned by Silvio Berlusconi as they did in September.

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