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Juve's title bid falters, wasteful Milan honour Maignan in Bologna draw

By AFP

January 28, 2024 11:22 AM


Juve's title bid falters, wasteful Milan honour Maignan in Bologna draw

Empoli's Italian winger #20 Matteo Cancellieri argues with Italian referee Livio Marinelli at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Empoli, at The Allianz Stadium, in Turin on January 27, 2024. AFP

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Juventus' bid for a first Serie A title in four years was hit on Saturday after Empoli snatched a surprise 1-1 draw from their 10-man hosts, as AC Milan paid tribute to Mike Maignan in their dramatic 2-2 draw with Bologna.

Tommaso Baldanzi stunned Turin's Allianz Stadium in the 70th minute of a stodgy encounter with Scudetto pretenders Juve, who missed the chance to move four points clear of Inter Milan.

Instead the league lead for Juve stands at two, meaning that Inter, who have two games in hand, will reclaim top spot if they win at fifth-placed Fiorentina on Sunday.

Massimiliano Allegri's side had to play more than three quarters of the match a man down after Arkadiusz Milik was sent off in the 16th minute for a clumsy and dangerous foul on Alberto Cerri.

Next weekend Juve, whose winning streak in league and cup ended at seven matches, travel to the San Siro for the so-called "Derby of Italy" with Inter after failing to put a proper cushion between them and their fiercest rivals.

"The 'Derby of Italy' is always a great game, it's a brilliant match to play and the stadium will be full. We'll go there to put in a top performance and try to get a result," Allegri said.

"They're the best team in the league and favourites to win the title."

Juve thought they were on course to secure the points when Dusan Vlahovic poked them ahead four minutes after half-time following chaos at a corner.

That was the Serbia striker's sixth goal in all competitions for Juve since the turn of the year.

But it wasn't enough for the win as Baldanzi, who is rumoured to be leaving for Roma before the end of this transfer window, rolled home his low leveller through a sea of legs.

The draw failed to pull Empoli out of the relegation zone as Davide Nicola's team are in 19th place on 17 points, a point behind Cagliari and Udinese who sit just above the relegation zone.

Udinese stayed within reach of Empoli after being beaten 2-0 at Atalanta, allowing their hosts to move into the Champions League places above Fiorentina.

- Maignan's MLK homage -

AC Milan summoned inspiration from American civil rights hero Martin Luther King to show solidarity with goalkeeper Maignan.

The fixture, in which Milan fluffed two penalties, was stopped in the 16th minute in honour of Maignan's shirt number while a famous King quote was displayed on the San Siro's big screen.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that," read the message.

Fans held up their phone lights while warm applause spread across the stands for Maignan, who was racially abused at Udinese last week, and highlighting Milan's "resolute stand against discrimination".

Riccardo Orsolini snatched a point for Bologna with a stoppage-time spot-kick of his own after failed attempts in each half from Olivier Giroud and Theo Hernandez which left Milan seven points behind Juve.

"We regret not winning the game, we missed two penalties and we created chances, even if we conceded a few too," Milan coach Stefano Pioli told Sky.

"We came from behind in a difficult match and we know we can't be sloppy defensively after scoring. It's a shame because the performance was there."

Orsolini's leveller gave huge joy to Bologna coach Thiago Motta, who was sent off for furious protests after Milan were awarded what he considered a soft first penalty in the 39th minute.

"They played to win throughout the game, I'm not going to talk about any refereeing decisions, that's up to the club," Motta, a treble winner with Inter, told Sky.

"I'll talk about my team, they put in a brilliant performance."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek thought he had come to the rescue for Milan when he powerfully headed home his second of the day with seven minutes remaining and overturned Joshua Zirkzee's 29th-minute opener for Bologna.

But Filippo Terracciano daftly tugged Victor Kristiansen's shirt as he tried to slide home a teasing low cross and Orsolini drilled his penalty under the despairing Maignan.

 

 


AFP


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