Pioli 'in love with my players' as AC Milan beat Verona to stay ahead of Inter

Milan trailed to a Davide Faraoni goal but a Sandro Tonali brace followed by an Alessandro Florenzi strike fired Milan closer to the Serie A title

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AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli has urged his players to maintain the concentration and belief that led them to a 3-1 victory over Verona in their final two Serie A games to become champions.

The Rossoneri trailed to a Davide Faraoni goal but a Sandro Tonali brace followed by an Alessandro Florenzi strike fired Milan closer to the Serie A title as Pioli's side maintained their two-point lead over Inter Milan at the top of the league.

Italy midfielder Tonali struck with almost identical goals created by Rafael Leao either side of half time before Florenzi completed the scoring near the end to leave Milan needing four points from their final two games to claim a first Scudetto since 2011.

Their superior record in this season's Milan derbies gives the seven-time European champions an advantage which would keep them ahead of champions Inter should the two local rivals end the season level on points.

"I'm in love with my players," Pioli to DAZN.

"I see the effort they put in every day and I know the journey we've been on ... we've got to keep this concentration, determination and belief in the final two games."

Milan now host Europe-chasing Atalanta next weekend before travelling to Sassuolo on the closing weekend of the campaign.

Inter meanwhile are in Sardinia on Sunday against a Cagliari team fighting to avoid relegation, with their final opponents Sampdoria and the small matter of the Coppa Italia final against Juventus on Wednesday further complicating matters.

Tonali's double was the second time in three matches he has been crucial to Milan's title charge after also netting a late winner at Lazio a fortnight ago.

The 22-year-old thought he had opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he raced onto a long ball from goalkeeper Mike Maignan and slotted past Lorenzo Montipo, only for the wild celebrations among the large contingent of away fans to be cut short by a tight offside ruling via VAR.

After also going close through Davide Calabria Milan fans started thinking about a Stadio Bentedgodi hoodoo -- they have thrown away two league titles at Verona in the past - six minutes before the break when Davide Faraoni finished off a beautiful Verona move by nodding home Darko Lazovic's floated cross.

However Tonali had a deserved goal deep into first-half stoppage time when after Leao burst into the box he met the Portugal winger's pass and pushed in the equaliser.

It galvanised Milan who were in front shortly after the restart thanks to a carbon copy effort, the only real difference being that Leao's low pass for Tonali's second was with his left foot.

From then on Milan were in almost complete control and Florenzi made sure Milan continued their charge for a first league crown since 2011 when he exchanged passes with Junior Messias before rifling home his second Serie A goal of the season.

Updated: May 09, 2022, 6:25 AM