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Okafor fires Milan to win at livid eight-man Lazio

By AFP - Mar 02,2024 - Last updated at Mar 02,2024

AC Milan’s Portuguese forward #10 Rafael Leao tries to score against Lazio’s Italian goalkeeper #94 Ivan Provedel during the Italian Serie A football match between Lazio and AC Milan on Friday at the Olympic Stadium in Rome (AFP photo)

MILAN — Noah Okafor struck late to fire AC Milan to a 1-0 win at Lazio on Friday in a fiery Serie A match in Rome which finished with the outraged hosts down to eight men.

Switzerland forward Okafor forced home his fifth league goal of the season with two minutes remaining, pushing Milan up to 56 points in third place and further strengthening his team’s position in Italy’s Champions League spots.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan are still 13 points behind league leaders Inter Milan, who host Genoa on Monday, but are just one behind second-placed Juventus.

Juve are at Napoli in Sunday night’s big game and have Milan breathing down their necks after a poor recent run of form.

Okafor’s strike was the most exciting moment of football in a niggly game in which Lazio had two players sent off in stoppage time, with a cascade of boos from dumbfounded home fans greeting the final whistle.

“It’s was a game with a lot of fouls, we didn’t have much rhythm,” said Pioli to DAZN.

Friday’s win also moved Milan 10 points ahead from fifth-placed Atalanta who on Sunday host Bologna, this year’s surprise package in fourth.

It will make relations with Milan’s American ownership slightly easier for Pioli as rumours continue to swirl about him being replaced in the summer after owner Gerry Cardinale said he was “not satisfied” on Thursday.

“It’s a big win looking at the matches being played this weekend... we’re trying to make this season a positive one as we still have big goals to reach,” added Pioli.

Lazio drop down to ninth, level on 40 points with Napoli, after a defeat which was dreadful preparation for Tuesday’s return leg with Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16.

Maurizio Sarri’s side lead Bayern by a single goal after winning the first leg in the Italian capital 1-0 last month and his players will need to pick themselves as they are eight points from the top four.

Lazio’s task against Milan was made harder when Luca Pellegrini was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 57th minute after yanking back Christian Pulisic, sparking a pushing match between both sets of players.

Defender Pellegrini thought that play had been stopped after Valentin Castellanos had been clattered by Ismael Bennacer and was furious at being sent off.

And Adam Marusic was given a straight red card for dissent in the fourth minute of added time before Matteo Guendouzi was also sent off for reacting to being fouled.

Lazio owner Claudio Lotito was so angered by referee Marco Di Bello’s performance that he said the club would take action against the decisions made against his team.

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