Sergiño Dest’s half of action conveniently coincided with AC Milan’s turnaround at Lecce, while Weston McKennie and Juventus were outclassed in their heavy loss at Napoli.
US Lecce 2 – 2 AC Milan
After a disastrous opening 45 minutes against Lecce, AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli’s halftime adjustments, one of which was the insertion of Sergiño Dest at left back, helped the team turn the tables on their hosts to earn an eventual draw.
Within three minutes of the opening whistle, the Rossoneri were already on the back foot, after a sloppy turnover by the Milan defense deep in their own territory ended with French international left back Theo Hernández chesting the ball into his own net.
Matters went from bad to worse for the visitors, with Federico Baschirotto doubling the lead in the 23rd minute by heading in a deep pass from Morten Hjulmand.
This prompted Pioli to change the equation for his underperforming side at the half, bringing in Dest on the left of the defense for the hitherto disastrous Hernández and Junior Messias for the ineffective right winger Alexis Saelemaekers.
The latter was involved in the early stages of the buildup to Milan’s first goal to cut the lead in the 58th minute, although the final deed was carried out by Rafael Leao with a tightly-angled shot from the left of the area to beat Lecce keeper Wladimiro Falcone
Then with 20 minutes remaining, Dest pulled down a long pass from the deep by Ismaël Bennacer in the left flank and drew several defenders in his direction before quickly dumping the ball back to the wide-open Tommaso Pobega.
The Italian international launched a probing ball into the six-yard box, where Oliver Giroud headed it sideways to team captain Davide Calabria for a leaping header just inside the left post.
Overall, Dest had a competent and involved half of play, making 44 ball contacts, completing 90% of his 20 passing attempts, winning two of three tackles, making four recoveries and one interception and winning four of nine duels.
In the end, Lecce prevented any further damage, with both teams claiming a point at the final whistle.
Combined with Juve’s destruction at the hands of leaders Napoli on Friday night, Milan climbs to second place, one point ahead of the Bianconeri, but still nine points of the lead.
They have already landed in Saudi Arabia to play city rivals Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday.
Napoli 5 – 1 Juventus
Weston McKennie went the distance for Juventus on Friday night, however it was a 90 minutes best forgotten by the team and their fans, as league leaders Napoli took another step towards the championship in a lopsided result.
Victor Osimhen struck first for the Serie A leaders in the 14th minute, instinctively heading the ball in from close range after keeper Wojciech Szczesny blocked an acrobatic attempt from Georgian attacker Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Osimhen then returned the set-up favor for his Georgian teammate in the 39th minute, picking him out on the left side of the area for a low shot that beat Szczesny at his far post.
Recent World Cup winner Ángel Di Maria gave Juve a glimmer of hope with a darting, pinball-style run into the area and powerful shot in the 42nd minute, but the second half saw the visitors’ fortunes only take a downhill turn.
Ten minutes after the restart, Kvaratskhelia’s corner was blasted in by Amir Rrahmani for the 3-1 lead, then almost immediately afterwards, Juve’s midfield star Manuel Locatelli was forced off the field with an injury.
Adding to their suffering was once again the duo of Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia, the latter lofting a high cross from the upper left corner of the 18-yard box for the Nigerian international to head home for the unassailable 4-1 lead in the 65th minute.
Eljif Elmas then completed the blowout win for the hosts with 18 minutes in regulation, controlling Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s on the right, cutting inwards, and unleashing a 15-yard blast that left Szczesny no chance.
Over his 90-minute performance as the right-sided central midfielder in a five-man line deployed by Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri, McKennie was mostly on the back foot, not registering any shots or chances created, but winning seven of 12 duels, making two recoveries, committing a pair of fouls, and winning none of his three tackles.
Juventus drop one spot to third with the loss, now trailing second-place Milan by one point and the leaders by a full ten. They will be hopeful of gaining back some much-needed momentum when they host Monza on Thursday in the Coppa Italia, as as tough test against Atalanta awaits three days later.
Anthony Fontana was left out of Ascoli’s squad on Sunday for their 1-0 road loss at Ternana, amidst murmurs in the local press that a return stateside could be in order.
The Venezia Yanks – Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio and Andrija Novakovich – will be in action on Monday night when the Winged Lions head to the northwest coast of Italy to take on Genoa in Serie B action.