Rafael Leao built on his midweek Champions League heroics on Sunday with both goals in AC Milan’s 2-0 win over lowly Lecce, while Romelu Lukaku also struck twice in Inter Milan’s 3-0 cruise past Empoli.
On a high from helping to set up a Milan derby Champions League semi-final with an incredible assist for tie-winner Olivier Giroud on Tuesday night, Leao headed his team in front in the 40th minute at the San Siro before slinking past a befuddled Lecce defence and rolling home the second with 15 minutes remaining.
Stefano Pioli’s side are outside the Champions League positions on goal difference behind Roma, who are at Atalanta on Monday night, and two points ahead of Inter Milan following their 3-0 win at Empoli, which came early on Sunday thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s second-half brace.
“I always try to do what I did today,” said Leao to DAZN after his first home goals for Milan since November which took his league total to 12.
“I thought about that before the match, that I needed to score because it was such a long time since I had here. It’s always great to score at the San Siro so I’m very happy.”
Milan are in a battle with local rivals Inter for qualification to next year’s edition of Europe’s top club competition, and began the day in fifth following the decision on Thursday to revoke Juventus’ 15-point penalty for illicit transfer activity.
However Juve, who host runaway league leaders Napoli later on Sunday with a chance to go second following Lazio’s home defeat by Torino on Saturday, await a new ruling from the Italian Football Federation’s (FIGC) appeals court to see if they will be handed a new points penalty.
Lecce have collected just one point from their last eight matches and are now fully in a relegation dogfight with seven fixtures remaining.
Marco Baroni’s side are two points and places above the relegation zone but might have got something out of Sunday’s clash had Lameck Banda not headed against the post from inches out in the 19th minute.
Lecce face Spezia and Verona, who respectively sit just outside and inside the drop zone, in a tricky run-in which also features trips to Juventus and Lazio.
Lukaku’s ‘step forward’
After netting his first league goals from open play since the opening day of what has been a difficult return season in Italy, Lukaku hailed the FIGC for overturning his one-match ban for being sent off in the first leg of Inter’s Italian Cup semi-final with Juve.
On Saturday the FIGC removed the ban — which had been initially upheld on appeal — as Lukaku had been dismissed following goal celebrations in front of Juve fans who had racially abused him while he took the late penalty which levelled the tie at 1-1.
That means Lukaku will be allowed to play in Wednesday’s second leg at the San Siro, a boost for Inter if Sunday’s display is anything to go by.
The 29-year-old lashed in two fine low finishes in the 48th and 76th minute to take his league tally since returning to Inter on loan from Chelsea to five, before then laying on Lautaro Martinez’s late goal which capped the win.
“That pardon is a step forward for Italian football, all I want to do now is rest and prepare for that match,” Lukaku told Sky Sport.
Monza bounced back from going two goals down in the first 13 minutes to beat Fiorentina 3-2 for the latest success of their impressive debut season in Serie A.
Owned by ailing former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Monza are 12th, a point behind Fiorentina, Torino and ninth-placed Udinese whose 3-0 win over Cremonese sent their opponents closer towards a swift return to Serie B.
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