MILAN: Christian Pulisic fired AC Milan top of Serie A on Saturday after a 1-0 win at Genoa decided in a wild final few minutes in which Olivier Giroud slipped on his goalkeeping gloves and saved the day.
Little had happened at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris until Pulisic struck with three minutes remaining, spinning and slamming home the controversial winning goal which was only given after a long VAR check for a possible handball.
The decision to give that goal would eventually lead to a livid Genoa president Alberto Zangrillo alluding to a conspiracy in which the “usual suspects always come out on top.”
Pulisic’s fourth Milan goal moved his team two points ahead of Inter thanks to a fourth straight win since last month’s five-goal humiliation suffered at the hands of their local rivals, who could only draw 2-2 with Bologna.
His strike also sent the match spiralling into chaos as the home side tried to scramble a point, Mike Maignan shown a straight red card in the seventh minute of stoppage time for charging out of his goal and clattering into Caleb Ekuban.
Coach Stefano Pioli had made his fifth substitute moments before so Giroud, who had been brought on in the 66th minute to score a winner, was then tasked with stopping Genoa and immediately watched on helpless as Albert Gudmundsson clipped a free-kick onto the crossbar.
“Pulisic wanted to go in goal but we told him he was too short, so Oli got picked to go in,” said Pioli to Sky Sport.
With the home crowd baying for blood Genoa’s goalkeeper Josep Martinez came up for the subsequent corner but ending up being sent off himself for a second bookable offense.
And Giroud capped an incredible evening by rushing out of his goal to twice to deny Genoa and ensure Milan took the three points back to the San Siro.
When asked what he would do with the goalkeeper’s jersey, he said: “I’m going to frame it!“
“I didn’t know if Cala (Hakan Calhanoglu) was going to head me the ball so I said to myself, ‘go’. I don’t have the natural skills of a goalkeeper and I really hurt my arm but that’s OK.”
Juventus are four points behind Milan in third after their 2-0 derby victory over struggling Torino.
Second-half goals from Federico Gatti and substitute Arkadiusz Milik made sure Juve stayed within sight of Milan and moved three in front of fourth-placed Napoli ahead of the champions’ home clash with Fiorentina on Sunday.
“We’re not looking at what other teams are doing, we just want to win every game that we play, that’s the only way to the top… there’s a very long way to go,” said Milik.
Juve’s win came without starting center-forward Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic, both out injured for the match at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
Chiesa risks missing out on Italy’s two Euro 2024 qualifiers with Malta and England but was selected in the Azzurri squad by coach Luciano Spalletti on Friday.
Simone Inzaghi’s Inter looked set to hold on to top spot in Italy when Francesco Acerbi and Lautaro Martinez gave the hosts a commanding lead in the first 13 minutes at the San Siro.
But a Riccardo Orsolini penalty six minutes later and Joshua Zirkzee’s fine finish shortly after half-time snatched a draw for Bologna.
“I’m angry just as the players are in the dressing room,” said Inzaghi to DAZN.
“It’s the second time, after Sassuolo (a 2-1 defeat), that we lead and don’t win because of mistakes and lack of attention which have cost us dearly.”
The one positive for Inter was the continued superb form of Argentina forward Martinez, who took his league tally to 10 in eight matches with his rocket of a strike.