Stefano Pioli’s Milan debut was going well with Hakan Calhanoglu’s goal and assist for Krzysztof Piatek, but Marco Calderoni’s stoppage-time scorcher gave Lecce a 2-2 draw.
Pioli marked his debut – and his birthday – as Milan sacked Marco Giampaolo after four defeats in the opening seven rounds. Davide Calabria and Samu Castillejo were suspended, with Giacomo Bonaventura and Mattia Caldara injured, but misfiring Krzysztof Piatek was dropped in favour of Rafael Leao in a 4-3-3 formation. Lucas Paqueta and Franck Kessie swapped sides, so the Ivorian could protect the left side of defence when Theo Hernandez pushed forward.
Lecce missed Giannelli Imbula and had a notoriously poor record here, winning only one of their 30 Serie A visits in October 1997, along with two draws and 12 defeats.
It was certainly a bright start, as within 60 seconds there was a double chance for the hosts. Rafael Leao flew down the left and his angled drive was parried by Gabriel, then Paqueta came sliding on to the rebound for a ricochet over from six yards.
Moments later, Leao again turned on the turbo from a Hakan Calhanoglu through ball to hit the side-netting.
Calhanoglu had a go himself, the angled drive across the face of goal and skimming the bar with a ferocious effort, while Lucas Biglia went around Gabriel and tried to squeeze the finish into an empty net, but Lucioni charged it down with his chest.
The pressure finally paid off after 20 minutes when Calhanoglu let the Biglia ball bounce and smashed a right-foot half-volley in-between Gabriel and the near post from the tightest of angles.
Theo Hernandez showed great technique to control a cross-field pass and pull back for Leao, as desperate defending stopped him tapping in from six yards.
It was one-way traffic and Gabriel palmed a Suso angled drive round the far post, while Leao’s attempt hit a defender’s ankle in the six-yard box.
Lecce had penalty appeals on 56 minutes when on the counter from a Milan corner, but Marco Mancosu went down far too easily on the tiniest of Biglia touches.
They were improving and substitute Diego Farias whipped a dangerous cross into the box, which Andrea Conti intercepted with his upper arm. After viewing it on VAR, the referee opted for a penalty. Babacar was an unexpected choice to take, as Mancosu had converted three already this season, and Donnarumma did parry the spot-kick, but the ex-Fiorentina striker scored on the rebound.
Suddenly, Lecce were fired up and Mancosu’s overhead kick whistled wide, but Calhanoglu nearly restored Milan’s lead when thumping the far post with an in-swinging corner.
Calhanoglu also fired a half-volley just wide from the edge of the box, but Lecce went down to 10 men for a few minutes when Babacar had cramp and the replacement wasn’t yet ready. Lecce Coach Fabio Liverani was also sent off for dissent.
During that lull, Milan scored to go 2-1 up. Calhanoglu dribbled to the by-line and pulled back for substitute Piatek, who redirected it into the far bottom corner from eight yards with the inside of his right boot.
There were six minutes of stoppages and Lecce used them to equalise with a moment of magic from Marco Calderoni, who hit a sudden left-foot screamer from 25 metres out that flew past helpless Donnarumma. Milan had been struggling to clear their lines and Suso was distracted in giving the ball away.
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Saved penalty: Babacar 62 (L)