Noah Okafor decisive for AC Milan's away victory

An almost surreal match in the second halfas the Rossoneri take advantage of their numerical superiority as Lazio will finish with eight men.

Noah Okafor confirms himself among the most interesting purchases of the last summer transfer market session
Noah Okafor confirms himself among the most interesting purchases of the last summer transfer market session / ALBERTO PIZZOLI/GettyImages

The advanced matchday 27 of Serie A saw SS Lazio face AC Milan.

The home team, coached by Maurizio Sarri, needed to win points to make it possible to reach fourth place and guarantee their second consecutive participation in the UEFA Champions League.

The Rossoneri had not won in their last two matches, wasting the opportunity to overtake Juventus into second position in the standings.

Sarri decided to opt for the starting lineup, with the exception of striker Ciro Immobile, replaced by by Valentín Castellanos, despite the very important match on Tuesday against Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16.

In any case, AC Milan started well with clean ball possession in search of spaces in the offensive zone that could trigger their offensive trident.

But shortly afterwards, it was the Biancocelesti who came close several times to taking the lead, if not for goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

In the first half hour of play, the two teams canceled each other out without creating clear scoring opportunities. The Rossoneri favored a style of play set up from the bottom which was rendered useless by the effective pressing of the home team who, in turn, once recovered the ball, was unable to finish positively.

Before the end of the first half there was an interesting initiative from U.S. star Christian Pulisic, who came back onto his left foot and unleashed a powerful but central shot which was blocked by goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.

Thus ended a first half with few chances and dominated by tactical balance.

SS Lazio v AC Milan - Serie A TIM
Christian Pulisic's plays proved decisive for the Rossoneri's victory. / Giampiero Sposito/GettyImages

The start of the second half saw the Rossoneri try, with greater determination, to make themselves dangerous.

In particular, it was the Pulisic who created the greatest opportunities. So much so that his direct opponent, the left back Luca Pellegrini, found himself in considerable difficulty and had to make up for a foul and therefore was sanctioned with a yellow card.

The key episode occurred in the 57th minute when Pellegrini himself decided to stop, even though the referee had not blown his whistle, because he saw his teammate on the ground following an aerial collision.

However, the full-back kept the ball in play and Pulisic cleverly took it away from him and ran past him. With the Rossoneri striker having the entire field in front of him, Pellegrini pulled him by the shirt, committing a second yellow card foul which led to his expulsion.

After this episode, the match became very tense as every clash of play, whistled or not, was the cause of continuous controversy which made the match difficult for the referee to manage.

Sarri decided to change some of his men and brought Immobile in who immediately threatened with two chances. The first with a central header blocked by Maignan, the second following a pass from teammate Gustav Isaksen which he wasted by shooting out, even though he was alone and a few steps from the goal.

Meanwhile, striker Olivier Giroud also made himself dangerous by finishing centrally after a good triangle in the central area with Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

In the 71st minute, Stefano Pioli decided to insert an extra offensive man, the Swiss Noah Okafor, removing a midfielder, and therefore trying to take advantage of his numerical superiority in a more insistent way.

The move paid off immediately. In the 77th minute, Rafael Leao managed to find the opening goal. However, the goal was disallowed due to a millimetric offside by the Portuguese attacker himself.

However, the Rossoneri's attacks continued while the Biancocelesti tried to resist the siege while trying to start a quick counterattack.

The home team's resistance collapsed in the 88th minute when, despite the intervention of Provedel, Okafor repeatedly shot towards goal and was only able to beat him with the second shot, thus giving AC Milan the lead.

In the final minutes of the match, everything seemed to go out of control as the match referee sent off two more Lazio players. First, the full-back Adam Marusic for protests and then Mattéo Guendouzi sanctioned, probably in an exaggerated way, with a direct red card after reacting to a repeated foul by Pulisic, who was also shown a yellow card.

Thus ended a match which in the second half became foul-heavy (36 fouls called) and was not very continuous in terms of pace of play.

AC Milan. A bad and unexpected defeat for AC Milan away against AC Monza. dark. Next

With this defeat, Lazio can probably say goodbye to their ambitions of fourth place in the championship while AC Milan can thank, once again, the important contribution made in the final minutes by their men on the bench.