Milan had Sandro Tonali sent off after just 33 minutes, but survived a missed Gianluca Caprari penalty to beat Benevento 2-0, including a Rafael Leao stunner.
The Rossoneri needed a win to stay top of the table after Inter beat Crotone earlier this afternoon, but were missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ismael Bennacer, Alexis Saelemaekers, Matteo Gabbia and suspended Theo Hernandez. Pippo Inzaghi and Gianluca Lapadula faced their old club, as Le Streghe ended 2020 with back-to-back 2-0 wins over Genoa and Udinese, while they also took points off Juventus and Lazio in recent weeks. Luca Caldirola, Christian Maggio, Iago Falque and Nicolas Viola were on the treatment table.
Brahim Diaz blasted inches past the far top corner, but Benevento gifted the opener with a poor back-pass and Alessandro Tuia’s clumsy attempt to confront Ante Rebic. Franck Kessie was back after his ban and converted calmly from the penalty spot.
Roberto Insigne had a huge opportunity to equalise for Benevento, as Gaetano Letizia knocked down a cross and his left-foot half-volley from the edge of the area smacked against the near post.
Davide Calabria got away with a very risky tackle on Gianluca Caprari going clear, but the referee took action for another incident on 33 minutes. Sandro Tonali went in very high with studs up on Artur Ionita’s knee and after an on-field review, the card was changed from yellow to red.
Benevento poured forward, testing Gianluigi Donnarumma with a cross-shot at the near post and Gaetano Letizia’s scorcher fingertipped over the bar. However, during that strike, Letizia pulled a thigh muscle and had to come off.
The Rossoneri defended against the waves of Benevento attacks for the rest of the half, with Donnarumma constantly on his toes.
Pippo Inzaghi introduced striker Gabriele Moncini for midfielder Hetemaj, but Milan proved once again they do not give up.
Even down to 10 men, they doubled their lead with a truly spectacular goal. Lorenzo Montipò tried to run out to reach a Rebic through ball, but Leao was quicker and showed great initiative and skill to immediately turn, floating the ball into the empty net from a very difficult angle.
Benevento kept pushing and Insigne’s back-heel flick was just over from six yards, anticipating the Milan defenders at the near post.
Rade Krunic lunged at Pasquale Schiattarella for an inevitable Benevento penalty, but Gianluca Caprari pulled it wide of the near post after sending Donnarumma the wrong way from the spot.
Le Streghe continued to waste their chances, Federico Barba volleying wide from eight yards, then Donnarumma getting down to parry a Lapadula strike after Alessio Romagnoli was turned.
Hakan Calhanoglu almost made it 3-0 for 10-man Milan with an angled drive that bounced just in front of Montipò to bounce off the far post.
Kessie was incredibly unlucky on 84 minutes when Leao laid it off for him, as the Ivorian’s finish bounced off the inside of the upright, rolled along the line and grazed the other post before going out.
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Sent off: Tonali 33 (M)
Missed penalty: Caprari 61 (B)