AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Bologna on Saturday as a second-string line-up slipped in Serie A’s top four race ahead of a Champions League showdown with Napoli.
The Italian champions travel to Naples with a one-goal lead to defend in Tuesday’s quarter-final second leg and the Milan coach’s decision to rest his stars at in-form Bologna led to a stalemate which leaves his team fourth in Italy’s top flight, level on 53 points with third-placed Roma.
Coach Stefano Pioli dropped every single outfield player from Wednesday’s win and Nicola Sansone slammed home Stefan Posch’s cross for the hosts just 33 seconds into the match at the Stadio Dall’Ara.
Milan recovered from the early shock, quickly took control of the match and, after Ante Rebic and Alessandro Florenzi, both forced decent saves from Lukasz Skorupski, Tommaso Pobega slammed the leveller in off the post four minutes before the break.
Pioli began to bring on his more trusted players midway through the second half but form forwards Brahim Diaz and Rafael Leao failed to find the breakthrough which would have ensured them a spot in the Champions League places for at least another week.
Instead his side can be overtaken by Inter Milan, who sit two points behind their local rivals and host fellow Lombardy outift Monza in Saturday’s late match.
“We shouldn’t have conceded a goal like that so early, we controlled the match, we didn’t let Bologna play their usual way and we created a lot,” said Pioli to DAZN.
“We weren’t accurate enough with the chances we created… we’re not satisfied because we did everything possible to win.”
Bologna, who survived a penalty shout for handball by Jhon Lucumi to the bafflement of Milan, stay eighth and five points from the Europa Conference League spot held by Atalanta, who are at Fiorentina on Monday night.
Napoli host struggling Verona later on Saturday hoping to take their league lead back to 16 points before turning their attentions to Milan.
Luciano Spalletti has also made a raft of changes ahead of Tuesday’s clash, while off the field a truce appears to have been made in a feud between hardcore fans and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.
On Saturday film mogul De Laurentiis posted on Twitter a photo with a number of the club’s “ultras” with the message “We are Napoli. Fans and president together for victory!”.
The atmosphere at Napoli’s recent home matches has been toxic, with their recent 4-0 home thumping at the hands of Milan marred by fights in the stands as the ultras decided to watch the game in near silence.
The ultras had ostensibly been protesting about being prevented from bringing drums, flags and banners to the stadium to create an atmosphere worthy of a season in which Napoli should win Serie for the first time since 1990, with weeks to spare.
Napoli told AFP that the meeting was aimed at finding “common ground” between club and supporters which would satisfy both parties while “respecting the rules”.
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