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Milan returned to the top of Serie A with a 2-0 win in Benevento and Stefano Pioli’s team survived playing with 10 men for almost an hour.
With rivals Inter, who took the lead after a 6-2 win over Crotone on Sunday, the Rossoneri responded with a resounding victory at Stadio Ciro Vigorito.
Franck Kessie scored a penalty in the first half, but Sandro Tonali was sent off before half-time to make it a potentially uncomfortable night for the visitors.
However, Pioli’s men dug deep and Rafael Leao produced a moment of magic four minutes into the second half, with Gianluca Caprari’s free-kick that robbed Benevento of a golden opportunity to return to the game.
With champion Juventus then Milan has a chance to send a signal to the rest of the division that this could really be their year.
– Lega Series A (@SerieA_EN) January 3, 2021
Brahim Diaz fired a long-range shot over the bar as the visitors, unbeaten in 14 on the road, signaled their intention.
Benevento were the architects of their own downfall as Milan took the lead in the 15th minute, a defensive confusion that ended with Alessandro Tuia knocking down Ante Rebic in the area, with Kessie coldly converting the ensuing penalty.
Roberto Insigne came within inches of matching the hosts, but saw his fine blow break the inside of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s left hand.
Filippo Inzaghi, who played for San Siro for over 10 years, saw his team Benevento get a boost when Tonali received a red card for a careless lunge on Artur Ionita.
The home team tried to force the issue when Gianluca Caprari and Gaetano Letizia made dangerous efforts, but Milan came into the break with the lead intact.
Pioli’s charges gained the respite they desperately craved thanks to a fine goal from Leao, who beat Lorenzo Montipo with a Rebic pass and turned smartly before setting up a precise shot on the stranded goalkeeper.
– AC Milan (@acmilan) January 3, 2021
Benevento’s frustrations deepened when Caprari dragged a woeful penalty after Rade Krunic fouled him awkwardly in the box, and Milan nearly added a third when Kessie’s low shot hit the inside of the post and crossed the line.
What does that mean? Milan keep going
Milan’s last win in the top flight was in the 2010-11 campaign, when Benevento coach Inzaghi wore the black and red stripes, but his moment could soon return.
Any fears that the season break might have slowed their momentum was pushed aside as Milan continued an unbeaten streak that now extends to 15 league games this season.
Benevento somehow went blank
Benevento had 60 percent possession, with a 66-34 split in their favor in the second half, but the wastefulness saw them arrive empty-handed.
With 25 shots, they only called Donnarumma to action five times, and Caprari’s lousy penalty summed up their departure.
Tonali let the side down
There did not appear to be malice in Tonali’s challenge, but he caught Ionita on the knee and earned her red card, which was awarded after referee Fabrizio Pasqua reviewed the incident on the field side monitor.
Before being sent off, Tonali had created an opportunity and completed 75 percent of his 20 passes, and his only foul was costly.
Pioli’s side will face Juventus on Wednesday with the opportunity to further extend their already healthy lead over Andrea Pirlo’s men. Benevento, meanwhile, heads to Cagliari.