ROME (AP)Goalkeeping blunders continue to make a major impact on the Serie A title race.
Following inexcusable errors by Inter Milan’s and Napoli’s goalkeepers in recent matches, AC Milan was the beneficiary of a massive mistake by Fiorentina’s ‘keeper in the final 10 minutes of a 1-0 win Sunday that kept the Rossoneri on track for their first Italian league title in more than a decade.
Pietro Terracciano’s clearance attempt landed right at the feet of Rafael Leao and the Milan striker quickly strode into Fiorentina’s area and shot past the unfortunate goalkeeper.
Terracciano then buried his head in his arms as he sat distraught on the San Siro field, while the goal whipped the crowd into a frenzy even though Leao kept his celebration to a minimum – just creating the shape of a heart with his fingers.
”It’s the greatest moment for a footballer – to score a decisive goal,” Leao said. ”But the most important thing was the victory, because we created a lot and perhaps we were a bit anxious in front of the goal.”
With three matches remaining, Milan remained two points ahead of defending champion Inter, which won 2-1 at Udinese later.
Milan, which also holds the tiebreaker edge over Inter, controls its own destiny as it attempts to seal its first Serie A title since 2011. Two wins and a draw in Milan’s remaining matches would be enough for the ”scudetto” – no matter what Inter does.
Inter, meanwhile, was still getting over the mistake that reserve goalkeeper Ionu? Radu made in a 2-1 loss at Bologna midweek.
Attempting to clear following a throw in, Radu instead kicked the ball toward his own net and Bologna’s Nicola Sansone had the final touch to make sure it went in for the winner.
Last weekend, Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret took too long to clear and when he finally did try to launch the ball away from his goal, Andrea Pinamonti was right on top of him and the ball ricocheted off the Empoli striker and into Meret’s net. That mistake helped Empoli to a 3-2 comeback win and virtually eliminated third-place Napoli from the title race.
Milan, which extended its unbeaten streak to 13 matches, plays Hellas Verona, Atalanta and Sassuolo in its last three games of the season.
”The next matches are like finals and we’ve got to win them to achieve our objective,” Leao said.
After the debacle at Bologna, Inter responded with a more convincing performance at Udinese.
Ivan Perisic put the Nerrazzurri ahead early by redirecting in a corner with a header. Then Lautaro Martinez doubled the advantage before the break by nodding in the rebound of his own penalty kick, which hit the post.
Ignacio Pussetto pulled one back for Udinese midway through the second half.
BONUCCI’S BIRTHDAY BRACE
Defender Leonardo Bonucci scored twice as Juventus beat last-place Venezia 2-1.
On his 35th birthday, Bonucci first scored with a header following a free kick then found the target following a corner for the winner after Mattia Aramu had equalized for Venezia.
Fourth-place Juventus moved 10 points ahead of fifth-place Roma and sixth-place Lazio and within one point of Napoli.
Venezia, which fired coach Paolo Zanetti on Wednesday and put youth team coach Andrea Soncin in charge, lost its ninth straight.
Venezia remained six points behind 17th-place Cagliari.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACES
Roma’s 0-0 draw at home with Bologna removed the Giallorossi from contention for the Champions League places – which will go to Milan, Inter, Napoli and Juventus.
Also, Torino striker Andrea Belotti scored three goals in the final 12 minutes of a 3-1 win at Empoli, which ended with nine men.
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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf