Rafael Leao fired a warning shot to the rest of Serie A on Saturday with his brace in AC Milian’s 3-2 derby triumph over Inter Milan which put his team level with league leaders Napoli, 2-1 winners at Lazio thanks to rising star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Portugal winger Leao struck twice in each half in a pulsating clash at the San Siro, the first since Milan’s takeover by RedBird was completed in the week, which put the champions a point ahead of Atalanta and Roma at the summit.
Fans bounced in the stands after a thrilling match full of goalmouth incident which was decided by Leao and Olivier Giroud, who after Marcel Brozovic’s 21st minute opener for Inter shot Milan two goals to the good on the hour mark.
“If you want to improve you need talent and intelligence and Leao has both of those,” said Pioli.
“Every time we put him in one-on-one situations he’s a huge weapon for us.”
However they also had the magnificent Mike Maignan to thank for the three points after the France goalkeeper pulled off four superb stops from Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko — also a scorer — and Hakan Calhanoglu.
A second defeat in five matches leaves an Inter team without the injured Romelu Lukaku sixth, level on nine points with Juventus who underwhelmed in their 1-1 draw at Fiorentina.
An already breathless encounter which started with the usual spectacular pre-match displays from the fans kicked into an even higher gear in the second half.
Giroud put Milan ahead in the 54th minute in fortunate fashion when he met the irrepressible Leao’s low cross with a scuffed finish which squeaked past Samir Handanovic.
Leao then nearly brought the house down six minutes later, a jinking run leaving him in front of Handanovic just yards from goal where he made no mistake.
Substitute Dzeko pulled a goal back seven minutes later and then Maignan stepped in to keep resurgent Inter out and ensure Milan claimed local bragging rights and top spot.
Kvaratskhelia takes Napoli top
Napoli lead Milan on goal difference after new boy Khvicha Kvaratskhelia continued his sensational start to life in Italy with the winner at Lazio, seventh after their first defeat of the campaign.
Luciano Spalletti’s side are unbeaten on 11 points thanks to a hard-fought win in Rome in which they fought back from going behind after just three minutes following Mattia Zaccagni’s drilled opener for the hosts.
The away side drew level seven minutes through Kim Min-Jae, whose thumping header from Piotr Zielinski’s corner just crossed the line depsite the best efforts of Lazio stopper Ivan Provedel.
Napoli came out with all guns blazing after the break and went close through Zielinski, Victor Osimhen who struck the post and Kvaratskhelia’s first time effort from Zielinski’s cross which shaved the crossbar.
However Kvaratskhelia wasn’t to be denied and he finally netted Napoli’s winner and his fourth of the season in the 61st minute when he met Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s low pull back with a thumping effort against which Provedel could do nothing.
Juve disappoint in Florence
Juve also had the chance to go top temporarily of Italy’s top flight against fierce rivals Fiorentina but after taking a ninth-minute lead through Arkadiusz Milik on his first Juve start they failed to earn the win.
They could count themselves fortunate to have left Florence with a draw after Christian Kouame levelled midway through the first half and Mattia Perin pushed Luka Jovic’s penalty onto the post just before the break.
“The boys played well, I saw good commitment and we kept our five-match unbeaten run going,” said Allegri, who is under pressure from supporters after a series of dull displays.
Juve had new signing Leandro Paredes make his first start while Angel Di Maria returned after recovering from a thigh injury, but they lacked spark in their third draw from five league fixtures.
A poor performance in which Milik’s goal was their only shot on target is not a good omen for Juve heading into Tuesday’s Champions League Group H opener at PSG.
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