SS Lazio on Tuesday shot into one of Serie A’s UEFA Champions League spots after hammering AC Milan 4-0 to leave the champions’ title defense hanging by a thread.
Lazio breezed up to third on goal difference ahead of Inter and local rivals AS Roma and a point behind second-placed AC Milan, who gave a disastrous display at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic put Lazio ahead after 3 minutes with a first-time finish, and by the time Mattia Zaccagni bundled in the hosts’ 38th-minute second they could have already been up by three.
Luis Alberto ended the match as a contest by smashing home a penalty midway through the second half, and his beautifully disguised pass set up Felipe Anderson to roll in a deserved fourth in the 75th minute.
“If we play like we have in the last few matches, we can really go far,” said Milinkovic-Savic, who thinks a title bid under manager Maurizio Sarri is a possibility.
“Why not? If we play like this against the champions, why can’t we go for the league?” he asked.
AC Milan are 12 points behind runaway league leaders SSC Napoli at the season’s halfway point, and have lost their aura as the country’s top team.
Three league matches without a win have allowed Napoli to skip away practically unopposed to a huge lead, while AC Milan have four teams breathing down their neck for second place.
Lazio are one of three sides trailing them by a single point while in-form Atalanta BC are a further two points back in sixth, as the race for the top four hots up.
AC Milan can also be happy that Juventus were docked 15 points for illicit transfer activity on Friday, otherwise they would be trailing the Turin giants on goal difference.
“Right now a lot of things aren’t working, mentally and tactically, because we’re in situations, above all for the first two goals, that we should have dealt with differently,” AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli told DAZN.
“Things aren’t going well, that’s for sure ... we need to start playing like we know how, that’s our first objective and we need to do it as soon as possible,” he said.
Lazio were missing star striker Ciro Immobile, but had no problem getting at an AC Milan defense that have conceded 12 goals in their past five matches in all competitions, losing three and drawing two.
Pioli lost France’s Theo Hernandez ahead of the match and starting centerback Fikayo Tomori to injury in the 24th minute before fullback Davide Calabria hobbled off in stoppage time.
Those were more blows for a team that have the Milan derby coming up in less than two weeks — against the sides that gave them a lesson in the Super Cup last week — and a Champions League tie with Tottenham Hotspur on the horizon.
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