Milan fought back from two down to draw 2-2 at Lecce in Serie A on Saturday, but the comeback did little to distract from their continuing slump.
Stefano Pioli’s men threw away a 2-0 lead against Roma last Sunday and were then knocked out of the Coppa Italia by 10-man Torino in midweek.
Things looked to be going from bad to worse for them at Stadio Via del Mare, with Theo Hernandez’s early own goal added to by a Federico Baschirotto header in the 23rd minute.
A Rafael Leao snapshot pulled one back, before Davide Calabria equalised 20 minutes from the end, and although the champions could not complete the turnaround, the draw was enough to put Milan second.
13 – Rafael #Leão has been involved in 13 goals (8 goals, 5 assists) in 17 league appearances so far, five more than he did in his first 17 games played in #SerieA last term. Factor.#LecceMilan pic.twitter.com/3MCjjycovu
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 14, 2023
The Rossoneri were facing an uphill battle within three minutes as Federico Di Francesco saw his cross turned in by Hernandez.
The lively Di Francesco then shot agonisingly wide either side of Tommaso Pobega shooting at Wladimiro Falcone and Olivier Giroud blazing the rebound over, with Lecce largely in control.
A deserved second did arrive before the half-hour, though, as Baschirotto was left with a free header in the box following Morten Hjulmand’s deep cross.
Valentin Gendry should have followed suit a few moments later when inexplicably heading off target after yet more threatening play by Di Francesco.
Milan got a lifeline just before the hour when Leao latched on to a rebound, shifted the ball onto his right foot and beat Falcone at his near post.
Calabria then got on the end of a Giroud header to nod in the leveller 12 minutes later, but a later winner was not forthcoming from either side despite a gripping finale.
What does it mean? Milan show spirit but need more to reignite their season
It is worth remembering there is a long way to go this season. In fact, we are not even technically at the halfway stage with this only matchday 18.
But Napoli already hold a nine-point lead at the top, and as Friday’s remarkable dismantling of Juventus showed, they really are a forced to be reckoned with. It is not a fluke that they are so far ahead.
A point here for Milan is obviously better than none, which looked the likelier scenario for a while, but it will take more to reel Napoli in. Perhaps success in the Supercoppa Italiana next week can be some form of catalyst.
Strefezza embodies Lecce’s attitude
It was difficult to avoid Gabriel Strefezza here – the 25-year-old winger was absolutely everywhere. He had more shots (six) than anyone else on the pitch, while only Lorenzo Colombo (four) laid on more than his three key passes.
Strefezza worked tirelessly off the ball as well, tallying a game-high nine recoveries and four tackles, which were the joint-most among Lecce players.
Hernandez endures a day to forget
Hernandez was unfortunate with the own goal, but it will still go down as his error. He was then one of those ball watching as Hjulmand’s cross landed on Baschirotto’s head for Lecce’s second. The left-back had very little attacking input and was hauled off at half-time.
Key Opta Facts:
– Leao has been involved in at least one goal in four games in a row in Serie A for the first time
– The Portugal man has been involved in 13 goals so far in 17 league appearances this season, five more than in the first 17 games of last season.
– Lecce scored a goal in the first three minutes of play in Serie A for the first time since April 23, 2011 (Di Michele against Genoa).
– Milan have conceded seven headed goals this season, more than any other team in the league.
Milan go to Riyadh now to face Inter in Wednesday’s Supercoppa, before returning to domestic action at Lazio the following Tuesday.
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