MILAN, Italy: AC Milan rebounded from Champions League disappointment by beating already-relegated Sampdoria 5-1 in Serie A on Saturday to boost their bid to qualify for next season’s competition.
Olivier Giroud netted his first Serie A hat trick, Rafael Leão also scored, while Brahim Díaz set up two goals before capping a fine performance with one of his own in the second half. Leão also set up Giroud’s third and won a penalty.
Milan moved to within one point of fourth-placed Lazio and two behind Inter Milan. Lazio visit Udinese on Sunday, shortly after Inter play at Serie A champion Napoli.
There are two more rounds remaining.
Milan lost at Inter 1-0 on Tuesday in the Champions League semifinals and were eliminated 3-0 on aggregate.
Leão missed the first leg with a thigh injury and appeared not to be fully fit in the second leg. But he was back to his best on Saturday. He raced onto a chipped Díaz ball over the top in the ninth minute and controlled it before slotting home. Leão was already smiling broadly before the ball hit the back of the net.
Sampdoria equalized through 40-year-old Fabio Quagliarella, giving him a Serie A goal in 18 straight seasons.
However, Milan restored their lead just three minutes later when Giroud headed in Díaz’s cross from a short corner.
Giroud doubled his tally in the 29th by converting a penalty after Leão was brought down by Sampdoria defender Koray Günter.
Milan didn’t let up after the break and Díaz got on the scoresheet in the 63rd after combining well with Leão and Sandro Tonali.
Giroud completed his hat trick five minutes later, beating Samp defender Bram Nuytinck to bundle in a cross from Leão.
Atalanta kept alive their hopes of qualifying for Europe by rallying to beat relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 3-1.
Atalanta were three points behind Milan. Verona remained level on points with 17th-placed Spezia.
Atalanta lost their past two league matches without scoring and it found itself behind again in the 11th minute when Darko Lazovic ran onto a Filippo Terracciano throughball and fired an angled drive into the bottom left corner.
But Davide Zappacosta levelled 11 minutes later with a powerful strike from outside the area.
Verona gifted the lead early in the second half. Goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipò tried to dribble past Mario Pašalić inside his own penalty area and the Atalanta midfielder stole the ball off him and placed it into an empty net.
Rasmus Højlund all but sealed the match in the 62nd with another ferocious strike from outside the area.
ALL BUT DOWN
Cremonese were all but mathematically relegated after they were humiliated at home by Bologna 5-1.
That left them six points from safety. A point for Spezia at fellow struggler Lecce on Sunday would be enough to condemn Cremonese to Serie B, alongside bottom club Sampdoria.
Riccardo Orsolini scored for Bologna and was sent off in the 73rd following a second yellow card.