x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Milan can’t master Torino while Fiorentina suffer blow to Champions League hopes

Adil Rami saved a draw for AC Milan against Torino on Saturday while Fiorentina failed to gain ground on Napoli with a 1-0 loss to Cagliari.

Clarence Seedorf and AC Milan are ninth in Serie A and could fall to 11th if Lazio and Genoa both win their next matches. Max Rossi / Reuters
Clarence Seedorf and AC Milan are ninth in Serie A and could fall to 11th if Lazio and Genoa both win their next matches. Max Rossi / Reuters

French defender Adil Rami scored his maiden goal for AC Milan but the hopes of a third consecutive league win under new coach Clarence Seedorf were kept in check by a frustrating 1-1 draw with Torino.

An air of revival has hung over Milan since former club hero Seedorf took over the reins from sacked Massimiliano Allegri just over two weeks ago.

But the banners of fans at the San Siro wishing the Dutchman well in his fledgling coaching career were carried home in despair as the hosts struggled to convince against a Torino side seemingly intent on playing on the counter.

With Mario Balotelli suspended, Giampaolo Pazzini stepped in and after just two minutes he turned on Robinho’s low delivery to send a deflected shot just over Daniele Padelli’s crossbar.

Milan had the early control, but were stunned on 17 minutes when Ciro Immobile latched on to a long ball from midfield and shook off Daniele Bonera on the left to beat Christian Abbiati with a right-foot shot at the keeper’s far post.

Pazzini almost levelled soon after when he pounced on the rebound from Robinho’s shot only to see his spectacular bicycle kick blocked by Padelli.

Milan were pressing but it came at the cost of exposing their defence and Torino spurned a great chance to double their lead just before the half hour.

Immobile ran half the pitch on the right flank with the ball at his feet before cutting to deliver a deft cross with the outside of his left foot for Alexander Farnerud.

Milan’s defence seemed asleep as the big Swede ran in unmarked at the back post but his header somehow flew over Abbiati’s crossbar with the keeper virtually beaten.

Milan found the breakthrough four minutes after the restart when French international Rami was given space on the edge of the area to unleash a shot which beat Padelli thanks to a deflection.

But despite dominating play for much of the second half Milan were unable to conjure the magic required to break down Torino’s packed defence.

Ghanaian Sulley Muntari made way for Nigel De Jong just after the hour and when Robinho was replaced by Riccardo Saponara on 75 minutes the Brazilian was treated to a chorus of jeers and whistles by some sections of the crowd as he left.

Torino gave Milan a scare five minutes before the full-time whistle when an incursion by Alessio Cerci forced Abbiati to rush off his line and clear.

The visitors won a free kick moments later after Rami’s foul from behind on Immobile and Cerci’s effort flew just past the corner of the keeper’s goal.

Seedorf played his last joker two minutes from the end when 18-year-old powerhouse Andrea Petagna replaced the disappointing Keisuke Honda.

Milan won a free kick in the dying minutes but the Brazilian saw his effort fly well over the target.

Earlier, Fiorentina’s promising run towards Serie A’s coveted Champions League places was temporarily halted by a first defeat of the year in a 1-0 reverse away to Cagliari.

It was difficult to tell which club was challenging for a top-three spot and which one was battling to avoid a relegation battle as Cagliari tormented Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto for over an hour in Sardinia.

Mauricio Pinilla scored a penalty shortly before half-time to lift Cagliari into 13th place while Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina could now see Inter Milan close to within five points of taking fourth place with victory at Juventus on Sunday.

It would not be a comfortable night in the Fiorentina goal for Neto, who found himself scrambling to smother the ball at Pinilla’s feet in the early stages following a fine through-ball from Marco Sau.

Cagliari enjoyed a better chance when Stefan Savic lost the ball in a dangerous area. Neto stopped Pinilla from clipping home an easy tap-in and then watched gratefully as Daniele Dessena smashed the rebound wide.

His luck ran out in the 39th minute as Facundo Roncaglia brought Sau down in his area, with Pinilla requiring little encouragement to drive his spot-kick straight down the middle of the goal.

Struggling Udinese, meanwhile, ended a run of four straight defeats with a 2-0 away win at relegation-threatened Bologna to claim their first league win of the year. Antonio Di Natale converted a penalty 15 minutes in and Nicolas Lopez added the other score in extra time.