Milan continued their march on third place with a 3-0 hammering of Empoli, thanks to Krzysztof Piatek, Franck Kessie and an impressive Samu Castillejo.
The Rossoneri were on a roll after beating Atalanta 3-1 and were beginning to target Inter in third place, but Samu Castillejo stepped in for suspended Suso and Andrea Conti got his first start since August 2017, a gap of 544 days dominated by knee problems. The visitors had ended their eight-round drought with a 3-0 victory over Sassuolo and made the trip without ex-Milan full-back Luca Antonelli.
Lucas Paqueta thought he’d broken the deadlock just 10 minutes in, but he had wandered offside before meeting the Ricardo Rodriguez cross, as confirmed by VAR.
Castillejo’s sensational left-foot curler was fingertipped out of the far top corner by Bartlomiej Dragowski, then had another strike with his weaker right foot palmed over the bar.
Alessio Romagnoli did well to charge down the Diego Farias attempt from close range and Franck Kessie hit the side-netting after a give-and-go with Castillejo.
Paqueta went down under pressure from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, but the referee waved away timid penalty appeals and immediately on the counter Afriyie Acquah’s volley was deflected wide.
Empoli wasted a golden opportunity after the restart, Rade Krunic firing wide from a promising position on the Francesco Caputo knock-down.
However, it was that man Piatek again with his seventh goal in five competitive starts for Milan. Castillejo robbed Ismael Bennacer, Calhanoglu rolled it across and Piatek was ready to side-foot home from six yards.
Just 120 seconds later, Castillejo was again heavily involved in another goal, as Kessie ran on to his through ball, drew out Dragowski and placed a delightful chip over the on-rushing goalkeeper.
Dragowski prevented Castillejo getting his own goal by beating the snapshot off the line, but it was only a matter of time.
Andrea Conti on his first start in 544 days provided the perfect assist, rolling across low from the right with enough bend that Castillejo only had to guide it into the near bottom corner from six yards.
Fabio Borini came off the bench and thought he’d scored a great goal when battering his way through a crowd of defenders to fire in at the near post, but after a remarkably long wait, VAR showed Patrick Cutrone was offside and interfering with play, as he got in the way of the Empoli players.
Lucas Biglia made his comeback for the first time since tearing a calf muscle on October 28 and was given a standing ovation by the San Siro crowd.
Gianluigi Donnarumma had little to do, but kept the clean sheet intact with a smart reaction save to deny Salih Ucan’s spectacular back-heel flick at the base of the near post.
See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk