A six-goal thriller was witnessed at an empty San Siro as AC Milan beat table-toppers and champions-in-waiting Juventus 4-2 in a Serie A fixture on Tuesday.
After a dour 45 minutes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic thought he had put the hosts ahead with the last kick of the first half, only for the goal to rightly be chalked off for offside.
The game sprung to life after the restart as Adrien Rabiot broke the deadlock with an exquisite solo goal that saw him run across half the field, skipping past five AC Milan challenges before unleashing an unstoppable shot from 20 yards just 74 seconds into the second half.
Juventus soon had their lead doubled when Cristiano Ronaldo calmly slotted a left-footed finish past Gigi Donnarumma after Juan Cuadrado found him with a precise lofted ball into the area. It may be pointed out that he was massively aided by a defensive mixup between Alessio Romagnoli and Simon Kjaer.
From nothing, the hosts were granted a lifeline when Leonardo Bonucci was adjudged to have handled in the area after consultations with VAR and Zlatan Ibrahimovic buried the ensuing penalty.
Two quickfire goals by Frank Kessie and Rafael Leao handed the initiative back to AC Milan. Ante Rebic was on hand to make sure of the result after a disastrous mistake by Alex Sandro in the area. Ronaldo put the ball in the back of the net late on but the goal was cancelled for offside.
Here, we shall be highlighting five talking points from the Serie A fixture.
#5 AC Milan end long wait for victory over Juventus
With over 90 major honours between them, AC Milan and Juventus are two of the most successful sides in Italian football history and any fixture between the pair is highly anticipated.
However, while Juventus have grown in stature in recent years and cemented their position as the most dominant team in the land, Milan have seen a fall from grace, suffering a trajectory in the other direction.
Proof of this lies in the fact that AC Milan have not made the top four in Serie A since 2013, while their rivals have grown from strength to strength in their unprecedented dominance of the Scudetto.
Coming into this fixture, AC Milan were without a victory over Juventus since October 2016, with a 1-0 win in Serie A and penalty shootout triumph in the Italian Super Cup. These wins were followed by nine consecutive defeats at the hands of the Bianconeri.
Two draws in the semifinal of the Coppa Italia last month halted the run of defeats and when Juventus went 2-0 up, fans of the Rossoneri would have been forgiven for thinking that they were in for another defeat. However, a rousing thirty-minute display by Milan saw them pick up their first victory over Juventus in 12 attempts.
#4 Juventus fail to take advantage of Lazio blip
Earlier in the season, Lazio and Inter Milan appeared to be genuine contenders to dethrone Juventus but with the latter faltering at the midway point of the campaign, the coast was cleared for a two-horse race between Juventus and Lazio.
The capital side's chances were bolstered by an incredible eleven-game winning run which included a 3-1 victory over Juventus but the Biancocelesti have struggled for rhythm post-lockdown, with a shock 2-1 defeat to Lecce earlier in the day effectively ending their title tilt.
Juventus had a chance to go 10 points clear with just seven matches remaining to virtually guarantee a ninth consecutive league crown but Maurizio Sarri's men failed to seize the initiative.
#3 Comeback kings AC Milan take massive step towards securing European qualification
The current season has been topsy-turvy for AC Milan. However, after ending the first phase of the campaign with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Genoa in front of their fans, the 2011 champions have returned to top-flight football with a bang.
They began their post-lockdown campaign with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Lecce and followed that up with a gritty and dominant 2-0 defeat of AS Roma, before coming back from two goals down to snatch a last-gasp 2-2 draw with SPAL.
Consecutive fixtures against the top two sides in the land would have been a cause of concern for even the most ardent Milan fan but Stefano Pioli's men picked up maximum points from both matches, with a 3-0 thrashing of Lazio followed by this comeback win over Juventus. This means that Milan have scored two or more goals in five consecutive Serie A games for the first time since January 2013.
The win temporarily moves them up to 5th, one point ahead of both AS Roma and Napoli, who they face next. In the form they are in, AC Milan would fancy their chances of finishing in one of the European spots by the end of the season.
#2 Ante Rebic proving to be the difference-maker for Milan
AC Milan have had a fine run of form since the turn of the year and a large reason for this is down to the form of one man.
Having largely been nothing more than a squad player for most of the season, Ante Rebic saw an upturn in fortunes when he broke his duck for the season with a brace in a 3-2 win over Udinese in the middle of January. Since then, the Serbia international has not looked back.
Eight goals have followed that scintillating performance, with his late strike against Juventus bringing his tally to ten goals in his last 12 matches, four of which came in five Serie A games after the lockdown.
Rebic was a thorn in the flesh of the Juventus defenders, winning the penalty off Bonucci, while also providing the assist for Rafael Leao's goal. If the former Frankfurt man can keep this form going, he would be a decisive factor in AC Milan's homerun.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo keeps doing what he knows how to do best
In the reverse fixture in November last year, Juventus toiled in vain for over 70 minutes before Maurizio Sarri made the unusual decision to take off Cristiano Ronaldo, with his replacement Paulo Dybala breaking the deadlock less than five minutes later.
The Portugal international stormed off straight down the tunnel and drove home, to much criticism from the media and fans alike. Questions were also asked about his importance to the Juventus cause.
Ronaldo is no stranger to criticism and he responded in the only way he knows how. He scored 16 goals in his next 11 matches consecutively to equal Gabriel Batistuta's Serie A record.
The last Serie A game pre-lockdown saw his run come to an end against Inter Milan but the 35-year-old has picked up from where he stopped since the resumption, scoring in all five matches so far to bring his total to 26 goals from just 27 Serie A matches.
His goal against Bologna last weekend saw him become the first Juventus player to score 25 league goals since Omar Sivori did so over five decades ago. With just two goals now separating him and current top scorer Ciro Immobile, you can be sure that Ronaldo would be gunning to add the Capocannoniere to his burgeoning individual accolades, while a fifth European Golden Shoe is not entirely out of the question.Published 08 Jul 2020, 07:39 IST