‘We’re chickens’: AC Milan collapse to Verona draw, coach Filippo Inzaghi under fire
The future of AC Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi was left hanging in the balance on Saturday after Uruguayan Nico Lopez came off the bench to hit an injury-time leveller for Verona in an insipid 2-2 draw at the San Siro.
Milan looked to have done enough to claim only their third win in 11 games after an own goal by midfielder Panagiotis Tachtsidis gave the hosts a second-half lead after first half-goals from Luca Toni and Jeremy Menez, both from the spot.
However Inzaghi and his fallen Serie A giants were whistled and jeered off the pitch by an increasingly hostile home crowd after a second consecutive draw left them in 10th spot, 23 points behind leaders Juventus.
Champions Juventus are not in action until Monday when they host Sassuolo looking to add to their nine-point cushion on second-placed AS Roma, who travel to Chievo on Sunday.
Milan, meanwhile, remain light years away from challenging for the scudetto.
“I’m sorry we conceded a goal in the last 10 seconds, we’re chickens to have conceded a goal from a long ball like that,” Inzaghi told Sky Sport.
“It’s hard to accept a goal like that, but it’s part of the ugly side of football.
“We have to keep forging on and keep our heads up, there’s not much else for it. There’s still 12 games this season and we have to win them.”
Inzaghi left on-loan Roma striker Mattia Destro on the bench with Giampaolo Pazzini and Alessio Cerci joining Frenchman Menez up front, while defender Philippe Mexes made his return to the line-up following his four-match ban for violent conduct.
Verona took the lead just after the quarter hour when Toni beat Spanish keeper Diego Lopez from the spot with a cheeky chip after Sulley Muntari had fouled Artur Ionita on the edge of the area.
Mexes tried his luck from distance only to see a dipping shot go just a foot wide of Francesco Benussi’s right-hand post as the keeper dived to cover.
Minutes later, the Frenchman’s guile helped win a penalty as he tumbled under a challenge from Bosko Jankovic and Menez stepped up to level from the spot on 41 minutes.
Mexes was handed a four-game ban on January 27 for a string of violent incidents involving Stefano Mauri during a 3-1 defeat to Lazio last month.
He had not played since then but looked to have made amends only two minutes after the restart when he hit the shot which led to Tachtsidis’s own goal.
Cerci’s drive into the area was sent up into the air by Pazzini and headed on by Menez to the right of goal, where Mexes picked up his own rebound to squeeze the ball home from the tightest of angles with a late touch coming from Tachtsidis.
It was far from attractive football but Milan came close to adding a third minutes later when Cerci’s through ball found Menez in space in the area, but Benussi was out quickly to shut down the intended pass to unmarked Pazzini.
Tachtsidis almost made amends on 72 minutes when he smacked the crossbar with a dipping half-volley that bounced behind Lopez before being cleared for a corner.
Milan went on to create several opportunities but Keisuke Honda, a second-half replacement for the ineffective Cerci, notably, was out of sorts hitting his efforts wide of the target.
The hosts were made to pay in the dying seconds when Juanito Gomez bravely got his head to a ball while surrounded by Milan players to nod into the path of Lopez, who replaced Jankovic with 20 minutes to play.
The Urugayan kept his cool under pressure from Mexes to dink the ball past the onrushing Lopez to snatch a share of the points.
“We’re happy,” said Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini. “We came here to play good football and we didn’t deserve to lose.
“Lopez is a little indisciplined in terms of tactics, but the lad can change games for you when he comes on. He’s fast and can score goals.”
Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o struck meanwhile with a half-volley to score his first Serie A goal in nearly four years as hosts Sampdoria ran out 2-0 winners over 10-man Cagliari.
Eto’o, who joined the Genoa-based side in January, had failed to score in five previous league appearances.
But a week after coach Sinisa Mihajlovic ordered the three-time African player of the year to stop making so many sacrifices, Eto’o repaid his first start for the club with an impressive second-half strike to wrap up Sampdoria’s 10th win of the campaign.
It was Eto’s first goal in Serie A since the 2010/11 season when he hit 21 league goals for then defending Serie A champions and Champions League holders Inter Milan.
Sampdoria had been held to 1-1 draws in their past three home games by Palermo, Sassuolo and Genoa, but at the tail end of a balanced first half Lorenzo De Silvestri fired a bullet header past Zeljko Brkic after outmuscling his marker to meet a corner from the right.
Eto’o threatened in the second half when he drilled a shot just wide of the upright but made no mistake when he collected a pass from the right flank to smash a half-volley past Brkic and into the top corner of the net.
Cagliari finished the match a man down after Danilo Avelar was cautioned for a second time for a foul on Eder. Gianfranco Zola’s side remain third from bottom of the table only a point above Cesena with Parma nine points further adrift.
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Published: March 8, 2015 04:00 AM