Lecce prevent Milan extending gap
AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by a stern Lecce side at the Stadio Via del Mare to miss the opportunity to move six points clear at the top of Serie A. Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the league leaders in front in the 49th minute, but a proud reaction from the home side culminated in Ruben Olivera earning them a point with eight minutes to go.
Milan now lead Napoli and Lazio by four points at the top of Serie A, but wins for Roma, Juventus and Inter Milan this weekend has enabled them to make up ground on Massimiliano Allegri's side. Lecce, meanwhile, celebrated an unexpected point which takes them above Brescia and level with Cesena on the brink of the bottom three.
Lecce played more like an away team in the first half, placing ten men behind the ball and defending resolutely with only Davide Di Michele left in the Milan half. Yet Milan were unable to find a way through, lacking any invention in attack but playing a patient game, biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
The first chance actually fell for Lecce in the 38th minute with Di Michele putting a loose ball into the back of the net from close range, but the referee's whistle had already blown for an alleged foul by Jeda on Alessandro Nesta. The decision seemed very harsh on the Lecce forward and the home side had every right to feel aggrieved not to be in front.
Milan's best chance of the first half came four minutes later when Ibrahimovic was surrounded by three defenders inside the area but still managed to get a shot in, which was blocked.
The Rossoneri had to try something new to make the breakthrough and Ibrahimovic took matters into his own hands to open the scoring in the 49th minute. He once again had two Lecce defenders marking him, but looked up and lobbed Antonio Rosati from 25 yards to net his 11th goal of the season.
Lecce had to abandon their defensive tactics and Guillermo Giacomazzi almost levelled on the hour mark when he juggled the ball inside the area and tested Marco Amelia, who only just made a save with a weak left hand.
A Di Michele shot, which took a deflection off the knee of Nesta, hit the post on its way wide in the 82nd minute, and Olivera brought Lecce level from the resultant corner. He turned to guide the ball past Amelia from close to the penalty spot to send the almost sell-out crowd in the Stadio Via del Mare into raptures.
The stage was set for a grandstand finish with Milan eager to win. Clarence Seedorf and Ibrahimovic both had good efforts to score as the visitors laid siege to the Lecce goal, but a counter-attack almost enabled Lecce to score as they had three attackers against one defender, only for a poor pass to ruin the chance.
The home fans were not complaining too much, though, as they celebrated the draw as if it was a win against the league leaders.