x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Teenager Berardi delivers four goals as AC Milan sink further and Allegri’s position grows more precarious

After Milan were stunned 4-3 by Sassuolo - who had been in relegation territory - on Sunday, club vice CEO Barbara Berlusconi said, 'A disappointing night, just like others, which confirms that a chance is necessary and urgent.'

Sassuolo's 19 year old Domenico Berardi scored four times to down AC Milan on Sunday. Elisabetta Baracchi / EPA
Sassuolo's 19 year old Domenico Berardi scored four times to down AC Milan on Sunday. Elisabetta Baracchi / EPA

Juventus, Roma and Napoli hit 11 goals between them to deliver a blow to pursuers Fiorentina and Verona as Milan were stunned 4-3 thanks to four goals from teenage striker Domenico Berardi on Sunday.

Juventus had been looking for a club record of 11 successive wins and despite conceding a 21st minute opener to Mauricio Pinilla the champions fought back in clinical fashion with Fernando Llorente netting twice in a 4-1 win at Cagliari.

Antonio Conte said he was “proud” to become the first Juve coach to reach the milestone, but added to Sky Sport Italia: “I thanked all of the team for helping us reach this milestone but we have to try and extend this streak or another side will try to overtake us.”

Roma began the day eight points behind leaders Juve but had little trouble dispatching Genoa, who were reduced to 10 men before the hour, 4-0.

Alessandro Florenzi led the rout with a sublime overhead kick, with further goals coming courtesy of club captain Francesco Totti, Maicon and Mehdi Benatia.

Totti, hitting his first goal in nine months, hailed Juve’s campaign but said the title race was not over.

“Juventus are the reigning champions and they’re almost a class apart, but we have a strong side that won’t quit. Until the very end, we will be giving them a hard time,” Totti told Sky Sport Italia.

Napoli were two points further adrift but despite a potentially tricky fixture returned from high-flying Verona with a precious 3-0 win.

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez suggested the scoreline flattered his side, which is still missing Marek Hamsik, Juan Zuniga and goalkeeper Pepe Reina among others, due to injury.

“It was a difficult game but we showed that we are a strong team,” said the Spaniard, admitting their next major aim comes at home to Roma, on March 9.

“The home game against Roma is our next major objective but we have our own path set out and we’ll see where it takes us.”

In Sunday’s late game Japan international Keisuke Honda came off the bench to make his debut for Milan only to see the struggling Serie A giants stunned 4-3 away to Sassuolo, with all four of the hosts’ goals coming from teenage striker Domenico Berardi.

Robinho gave Milan a ninth-minute lead, beating Gianluca Pegolo with a low angled strike at the keeper’s far post and Mario Balotelli made it 2-0 four minutes later.

Sassuolo, however, had other ideas, showing great resolve to reduce their two-goal deficit within 13 minutes thanks to Berardi, who completed his hat-trick on 41 minutes and hit his fourth minutes after the restart.

“It’s a match I won’t ever forget,” said 19-year-old Berardi, who is on loan from Juventus but quickly dedicated his feat to Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

“He took us from Serie B to Serie A, and has a big heart just like the rest of us.”

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri sent on Honda 20 minutes into the second half and the Japanese saw a header from a cross on the left blocked by Pegolo and then struck the post with a first-time curling effort from the edge of the area.

Milan were given a glimmer of hope five minutes from the finish when Ricardo Montolivo collected Nigel De Jong’s ball in midfield and struck a long-distance drive which beat Pegolo low at his far post.

But Milan spurned another late chance when Balotelli’s header at the back post was punched out by Pegolo and Giampaolo Pazzini followed up by sending the rebound against the crossbar.

“It’s a terrible defeat for us, we just weren’t good in defence,” said Allegri. “Perhaps we were a bit unlucky at the end but it’s a match to forget.”

Milan remain 11th, now 30 points behind Juve and 20 behind Napoli in the first Champions League qualifying spot.

Allegri came under attack from club vice CEO Barbara Berlusconi on Sunday after the stunning loss.

Allegri led the club to the Serie A title in his first season in charge in 2011 but, for the second consecutive season, Milan are well behind the league pacesetters.

After Sunday’s reverse, Milan remained 11th but are 30 points adrift of leaders Juventus and 20 behind Napoli, who occupy the last Champions League qualifying spot, in third.

Berlusconi, the daughter of club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi, launched a scathing attack on club CEO Adriano Galliani prior to Christmas which prompted the official to offer his resignation before backpedalling.

After Sunday’s reverse, Berlusconi said an “urgent change” was needed at the helm of the seven-time European champions.

“A disappointing night, just like others, which confirms that a change is necessary and urgent,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying on ANSA, the domestic news agency.

“We can no longer tolerate the fact that our fans have to put up with performances like these.”