MILAN — Sandro Tonali celebrated his 22nd birthday by scoring two goals that took AC Milan a step closer to its first Serie A title in 11 years.
Milan won 3-1 at Hellas Verona on Sunday thanks mainly to a goal in each half from Tonali after Davide Faraoni had given the home side the lead. Rafael LeÃ£o set up both goals for Tonali.
Substitute Alessandro Florenzi sealed the match late on, two minutes after coming off the bench.
Stefano Pioli’s side moved back to the top of the standings, two points above city rival Inter Milan after the defending champion beat Empoli 4-2 on Friday. There are two rounds remaining.
Tonali almost got a hat trick. He thought he had opened the scoring in the 16th minute but it was ruled out for offside on video review.
Instead it was Verona which took the lead as a great team move was finished by Inter youth product Faraoni heading in Darko LazoviÄ’s cross.
Milan leveled on the stroke of halftime when LeÃ£o mazed his way into the left side of the area and rolled across for Tonali to slot into the far bottom corner.
LeÃ£o had been causing problems with his pace and did so again five minutes after the break as he ran from inside his own half to the byline and once again rolled the ball across for Tonali to tap in.
Cagliari defender Giorgio Altare may have just saved his side from relegation with his first goal in Serie A.
Altare headed in a corner in the ninth minute of stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw at fellow struggler Salernitana in a match that was full of late drama.
Salernitana had seemed to be heading for its fifth win in its past six matches — and against a direct rival for Serie A survival — following Simone Verdi’s second-half penalty.
Salernitana, which was bottom of the league for nearly the entire season, remained a point clear of Cagliari and the bottom three.
The late goal also saved Venezia for another week at least. Venezia was five points behind Salernitana after beating Bologna 4-3 to end a run of 10 straight defeats and record its first win since February.
The match in Salerno was vital for both teams. Cagliari had replaced Salernitana in the bottom three after Davide Nicola’s side beat Venezia 2-1 on Thursday.
Salernitana eventually broke the deadlock in the 68th minute when Verdi struck a powerful penalty into the bottom left corner after Cagliari defender Matteo Lovato had tripped Grigoris Kastanos.
Cagliari almost leveled eight minutes later but Alberto Grassi’s fierce effort came off the top of the left post.
Cagliari thought it had been given a great chance to equalize deep in stoppage time when it was awarded a penalty after Salernitana goalkeeper Luigi Sepe tripped Daniele Baselli. After reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, referee Marco Di Bello revoked his decision after adjudging there had been a foul on Sepe just before.
However, Cagliari did level with a bullet header from Altare that was too powerful for Sepe to keep out.
EYES ON EUROPE
Atalanta boosted its chances of qualifying for Europe with a 3-1 win at lowly Spezia, which was still not safe from relegation.
Berat Djimsiti headed in his first Serie A goal of the season in the 73rd minute to restore Atalanta’s lead after Daniele Verde had canceled out Luis Muriel’s opener in the first half.
Muriel also helped seal the match as he threaded the ball through for Mario PaÅ¡aliÄ three minutes from time.