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Kessie, Biglia apologize for bench altercation during Milan derby loss

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AC Milan duo Franck Kessie and Lucas Biglia were left to apologize after an altercation on the touchline during Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Inter in the Milan derby at the San Siro.

In the 69th minute, with Inter up 3-1, Kessie was substituted off by AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso, and was visibly frustrated with the decision of his withdrawal. Biglia, while sitting in his seat on the bench, appeared to say something to him as he came off the pitch, which triggered the incident. Multiple teammates and staff are forced to hold Kessie back, while fellow unused substitute Diego Laxalt appears to try talking Biglia down from the seat next to him.

“It was the adrenaline of the match situation, I was frustrated coming off and really wanted to do more. I took it out on Lucas and it was a mistake, I apologized afterwards,” Kessie told Sky Sport Italia after the match. “He is older than me and I should learn from him. I’m sorry.”

While Biglia’s statement seemed like less of an admission of guilt, he still said he was embarrassed by the incident and admitted he could have handled it differently.

“Franck knows what I said and we clarified the situation afterwards,” the Argentine said. “We all want to win, but this is not something we should do in front of everyone. Maybe save it for the dressing room. We above all feel bad for this embarrassing scene, I feel ashamed of it and apologized to the team and coach in person. It was not what we wanted, we embarrassed the club we represent and it won’t happen again.”

One eagle-eyed Twitter user noticed that the problems between the two could run deeper than just this one moment. Lucas Biglia opened the scoring against Chievo Verona last time out in an eventual 2-1 win, and zoomed-out video showed the entire team celebrating with the Argentine goalscorer except Kessie, who glances at the rest of the celebrating squad for around five seconds before casually turning his back and strolling towards the center of the pitch for the restart.

The loss for Milan on Sunday dropped them into fourth, the final Champions League place in the Serie A table, with a six-point lead over fifth-placed Roma.

Inter holds off AC Milan for 3-2 derby win

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Inter lept AC Milan into third in the Serie A table with an exciting 3-2 win at the San Siro over AC Milan.

The result not only saw the two sides swap places in the table, but also ended a 10-match unbeaten run by AC Milan in the series.

Matias Vecino bagged the opener just three minutes in to put Inter in front, with the easiest of tap-ins after Ivan Perisic sent in a curling cross to the far post where Lautaro Martinez was waiting, and his contested header came back across the face of goal to Vecino on the doorstep.

That would be the score at halftime, but just six minutes after the break Stefan de Vrij produced a fabulous header as Inter played a short corner, working a delivery for Matteo Politano which saw de Vrij rise highest to meet it and float his header inside the near post.

Tiemoue Bakayoko, in better form since the turn of the calendar year, pulled AC Milan one back just six minutes later with his first AC Milan goal as he powered home a header off a laser beam free-kick from Hakan Calhanoglu straight down the center. It seemed the game was destined for a wild finish until Samu Castillejo felled Matteo Politano in the box, and Martinez deposited the penalty powerfully for a 3-1 Inter lead.

AC Milan again pulled within one as Mateo Musacchio finished off a messy goal in the 71st minute, but they could not find a way back level despite heavy pressure forward. In the dying seconds of stoppage time, Samir Handanovic was required to produce a wonderful reflex save on a Castillejo header at the far post, and Danilo D’Ambrosio blocked an even later shot from Patrick Cutrone before the final whistle.

Inter’s win is vital, given they had occupied the final Champions League spot and were looking over their shoulder to fend off Roma, Lazio, and Atalanta, but now that is AC Milan’s problem. Inter moves into third on 53 points, seven back of second-placed Napoli, while AC Milan remains on 51 points, six above fifth-placed Roma.

Serie A: Piatek scores again as AC Milan win 2-1 at Chievo

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan ensured it will go into next weekend’s derby match ahead of Inter Milan after beating Chievo Verona 2-1 in Serie A on Saturday.

Krzysztof Piatek scored what was to prove the winner. His 19th league goal moved him level at the top of the goalscoring chart with Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella.

Milan consolidated third place, four points ahead of Inter, which hosts Spal on Sunday. The top four from Serie A qualify for the Champions League next season.

The only negative note for Milan was coach Gennaro Gattuso was sent to the stands in the first half for dissent and risks being suspended for the derby on March 17.

A decision will be announced on Tuesday and will depend on what is written about the incident in the referee’s report.

“The coach didn’t want to talk precisely because of his sending off,” said assistant coach Luigi Riccio, who stood in for Gattuso in the post-match news conference. “I just want to say that they have already clarified everything, they talked, and these are things that happen on the pitch.”

Lucas Biglia, back from a lengthy injury layoff, marked his first start since October by curling a magnificent free kick into the top left corner in the first half.

However, Chievo leveled four minutes from halftime when Mehdi Leris curled in a cross from the right for Perparim Hetemaj to head in at the far post.

It was only the third league goal Milan has conceded in 2019.

Piatek has scored seven goals for Milan since his move from Genoa, and the eighth arrived in the 57th following a chaotic and somewhat controversial move.

Piatek attempted an overhead kick after his initial effort was saved by Stefano Sorrentino but ended up kicking a Chievo player instead. The move continued and Samu Castillejo headed the ball back into the area for Piatek to volley home.

The Chievo players protested but the goal was allowed to stand after a check with the video assistant referee.

“I don’t want excuses but in the last six matches all the VAR decisions have gone against us,” Chievo coach Domenico Di Carlo said. “Piatek’s move on (Fabio) Depaoli wasn’t football, it’s kung fu … you can write the headline: `Chievo beaten by a kung fu kick.'”

Chievo remained bottom of the table, 12 points from safety.

Serie A: Milan tops Atalanta in massive win, Cagliari grabs 3 points

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AC Milan has scored one of the most important results of the Serie A season in what has turned out to be a vicious battle for the final Champions League places, coming from behind to beat Atalanta 3-1 on a brace from new signing Krzysztof Piatek. The win gave Milan a four-point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Atalanta, with Roma and Lazio all right there in the chase as well.

Both teams struggled to find good chances through the first 45 minutes, as the only two shots on target of the first half resulted in goals. Atalanta struck first through Remo Freuler, although Gianluigi Donnarumma will want it back. Just past the half-hour mark, great work from Josip Ilicic on the right-hand edge of the box led to a cutback where Freuler was waiting in acres of space, but his shot was right at Donnarumma. Unfortunately for the visitors, he was unable to stop the shot completely, and it trickled away to his right and over the line.

Milan was able to change the halftime feel of the game right on the stroke of the break as Piatek scored his 16th goal of the season and third for Milan since joining in the winter by somehow managing to touch Ricardo Rodriguez’s cross into the far corner despite his back to the target, contorting his body so that his leg whip redirected it inside the far post.

The visitors took the lead just after the break, a meaningful strike in more ways than one as Hakan Calhanoglu bagged his first goal of the season to a thunderous response from the Milan bench. His low strike from the top-left corner of the penalty area found the far post past a diving Etrit Berisha. Less than a week ago, Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso had called Calhanoglu out for poor play, saying “I expect more” from the Turkish winger. The goal is his first in league play since he ended last season with a run of three goals in the final four games of the campaign.

Piatek made it 3-1 just minutes after by heading in a Calhanoglu corner, and that was the ballgame wrapped up. Milan won its second in a row and fourth in its last six league matches. With just one league loss since the November international break, Milan has strengthened its Champions League hopes, just a point back of third-placed Inter who is set to host Sampdoria tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Cagliari also came from behind, beating Parma 2-1 on a brace from Leonardo Pavoletti despite falling behind before halftime.

The visitors at Sardegna Arena went in front in the 40th minute on an absolutely stunning header from Juraj Kucka, redirecting a free-kick from a great distance out, looping his header up and over Cagliari goalkeeper  Alessio Cragno, clipping the underside of the bar and deflecting into the net.

Cagliari stormed back and Pavoletti struck for the first time just past the hour mark, touching home on a set-piece development after Luca Cigarini’s looped free-kick found Luca Ceppitelli’s head, touching the ball across the face of goal right to the doorstep where Pavoletti was streaking in.

The hosts owned both the bulk of possession and the advantage in the shot count, finishing with 16 to Parma’s nine, but they struggled to get them on target. Finally, in the 85th minute, Pavoletti won it as Nicolo Barella produced a wonderful cutback delivery from the left touchline and his looping cross found the 30-year-old’s head leaving Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe no chance.

The win pushes Cagliari to 14th in the table, six points above the relegation zone and just one point below their opponents.

Bakayoko finding delayed success on loan at AC Milan

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On-loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko had really been struggling at AC Milan this season, so much so that there was talk of his departure from both Chelsea and Milan on a permanent basis in January, ending his chance of earning a place with the Blues before it really ever began.

Then, things began to slowly turn around. It began after Bakayoko sat a game for a yellow card suspension in late December. He returned to play in a 0-0 draw against Frosinone, and while Milan failed to score, Bakayoko was one of the most instrumental players on the pitch, brought on by a willingness to take players on himself rather than try to find every cutting edge pass. In the 0-0 draw with Bologna just before his suspension, he attempted one take-on; in the Frosinone match after his return, he attempted five take-ons and was successful in them all.

This trend continued, and it in turn opened up passing lanes. Since returning from his yellow card suspension, Bakayoko has attempted 26 take-ons, completing 18 of them, playing all 90 minutes in each of the six games. This has opened the eyes of Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso.

“Bakayoko is an unusual deep-lying playmaker,” Gattuso said after Milan topped Cagliari on Sunday.  “He used to choose the wrong passes, but now he takes men on, can power past people and create chances.”

Milan has been forced to stick with Bakayoko in midfield due to the long-term calf injury to Lucas Biglia, forcing him out since October. That has benefitted Bakayoko, who has been given time to work out his struggles. Unfortunately, he’s rounding into form just as Biglia makes his return. He was an unused substitute in the Cagliari match, the first time he has been part of the matchday squad since his injury.

“If it’s a problem, we’ll resolve it. Biglia has been out for three months and needs time to find his form,” Gattuso said. “We’ll see if we need to use him in a wider midfield role, if there is the requirement.”

The inclusion of Biglia doesn’t necessarily mean Bakayoko’s minutes will fall, but it may force him into a different role. As Gattuso says, he would likely move from his deep-lying central role to the outside of the midfield three, meaning 21-year-old January signing Lucas Paqueta – who scored his debut league goal on Sunday against Cagliari – could be the one to make way.

Either way, the improvement of the midfield at the San Siro is a significant boost for the club as Milan fights for Champions League qualification. The club currently sits fourth after the Cagliari win on Sunday, but just barely – their 38 points are just one above the trio of Roma, Atalanta, and Lazio.

Bakayoko’s recent form in his role at Milan will also give Chelsea fans hope that he can eventually make his way back to Stamford Bridge and challenge Jorginho or N'Golo Kante for a role in the starting lineup. Jorginho especially struggled mightily in his defensive midfield role against Manchester City on Sunday, and fans have started to sour on Maurizio Sarri‘s Jorginho experiment that has forced Kante into a different role from the one he excelled at for so long.

Even if he never finds his way back to Stamford Bridge, Bakayoko’s improvement could be beneficial to Chelsea in another way – Milan now reportedly wants to take Bakayoko on permanently, which could net Chelsea a significant fee and a player in return. According to tabloid reports in England, Chelsea is hoping Milan’s interest in Bakayoko permanently could net them Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who has played alongside Bakayoko for much of the season.