Milan were twice in front at the Castellani, but Empoli fought back for a 2-2 draw in this entertaining clash.
Only one point separated these sides going into the Castellani and Riccardo Saponara returned from a bout of flu to face his former club, but Leandro Paredes sat out a ban. The Rossoneri’s confidence was growing after beating Fiorentina 2-0 and reaching the Coppa Italia semi-finals, so they fielded an unchanged XI.
Milan had never lost a Serie A game in Empoli, earning five wins and as many draws, and they took an early lead when Carlos Bacca sprung the offside trap on a Luca Antonelli ball over the top to drill past Lukasz Skorupski into the near bottom corner. Replays suggest the Colombian might’ve had a boot offside, but it was extremely tight.
The goalkeepers were tested by Piotr Zielinski and Jack Bonaventura’s volley, while Massimo Maccarone had the ball in the net with a glancing header after straying offside.
Empoli did equalise moments later, as Saponara sent Zielinski clear down the right with a no-look pass and the Poland international coolly slipped the finish under Gianluigi Donnarumma.
M’Baye Niang’s effort was plucked out from under the bar and Bonaventura’s free kick sailed over, while Donnarumma fumbled a Maccarone volley after his poor clearance. On the stroke of half-time, Antonelli’s cross flashed along the six-yard line with nobody able to get the final touch and Bonaventura eventually blasted over.
Alex had a muscular problem and made way for Cristian Zapata and Milan restored their lead with a huge stroke of luck. A Lorenzo Tonelli clearance whacked Niang on the side of the head and ricocheted into the path of Bonaventura, the midfielder taking advantage to nutmeg Skorupski at the far post. Niang wasn’t able to celebrate the goal, as he was on the ground clutching his sore face.
Milan had penalty appeals waved away for a Maiello handball, as the referee considered it to be involuntary.
Empoli got back into the game yet again, as on a free kick Donnarumma was at full stretch to deny a Pucciarelli curler, but could do nothing on the Maccarone follow-up.
Zielinski blasted just over the bar and Mario Balotelli’s free kick pierced the wall, but did not surprise Skorupski. Late on Balotelli wasted a promising counter by misplacing the pass with Bacca and Kevin-Prince Boateng waiting and Bacca failed to make the most of a poor Tonelli back-pass.
With the last kick of the game, Milan risked scoring an own goal, after Balotelli had been caught offside when going clear.
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