AC Milan beat Empoli to keep up fine form

By Sports Desk January 07, 2024

Teenager Chaka Traore scored his second goal in six days as AC Milan beat Serie A strugglers Empoli 3-0 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani.

The 19-year-old Ivorian winger, who had opened his Milan account in Tuesday’s 4-1 Coppa Italia victory over Cagliari, came off the bench to notch a third for Stefano Pioli’s men in the 88th minute.

That added to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s 11th-minute opener and an Olivier Giroud penalty just past the half-hour mark.

Third-placed Milan’s third win in four league games closed the gap to second-placed Juventus to four points ahead of the Turin giants’ match at Salernitana later on Sunday.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s Empoli remain second bottom as their winless run in the league extends to a seventh match.

As the visitors sought to make an early breakthrough, Tijjani Reijnders drilled wide in the third minute and Davide Calabria produced a dangerous cross from the right that flashed across the face of goal without a finishing touch being applied.

Milan then moved in front when Rafael Leao got past Tyronne Ebuehi on the left and laid the ball to Loftus-Cheek, who slotted past Elia Caprile.

Caprile subsequently dealt with a shot from Theo Hernandez before Empoli were forced into a change, with Ebuehi having pulled up injured and replaced by Filippo Ranocchia.

Moments later, Loftus-Cheek’s acrobatic effort hit the hand of Youssef Maleh, a VAR check ensued and after referee Federico La Penna watched footage back pitchside the verdict was a penalty, which Giroud dispatched in emphatic fashion off the crossbar for his 10th club goal of the season in all competitions.

It was then Milan having to make an early substitution due to injury as Alessandro Florenzi came off for Alex Jimenez.

Empoli’s Nicolo Cambiaghi was unable to make the most of a decent chance in first-half stoppage time, shooting wide, and Tommaso Baldanzi then saw an attempt saved by Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan early in the second half.

Milan returned to the front foot with Loftus-Cheek striking wide from outside the box, Caprile tipping over a Christian Pulisic header and Leao curling into the stand.

Empoli’s continued efforts to hit back saw Cambiaghi put a couple of attempts wide, either side of Maignan blocking a Matteo Cancellieri shot and Francesco Caputo’s follow-up deflecting behind.

Milan then wrapped things up on the counter-attack in the closing stages as Pulisic burst forward and fed Traore, who sent a composed finish into the bottom corner.

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