AC Milan moved up to sixth in the Serie A table as they came out 4-1 winners in a frenetic game with Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare on Monday evening.
Goals from Samu Castillejo, Giacomo Bonaventura, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao were enough to ensure the Rossoneri took all three points back to the north of Italy despite Marco Mancosu briefly bringing the hosts level just after the break.
The victory ensures that Milan remain in the hunt for a Europa League qualification place with only four points separating sixth and ninth in the standings.
The contest opened with little in the way of action as the contrasting styles of both sides failed to create any openings. The Salentini’s attempts at imposing a high tempo on their visitors stalled, as they failed to string more than a handful of passes together, whilst the Rossoneri were happy just to keep possession.
However, Stefano Pioli’s men began to assert their dominance on proceedings after the opening quarter of an hour when, within moments of each other, Bonaventura, Castillejo, Franck Kessie and Theo Hernandez were all denied by Gabriel in the Salentini goal.
The breakthrough finally arrived just before the half hour mark for the Rossoneri when Hakan Calhanoglu’s low cross into the Lecce box was expertly turned past Gabriel by Castillejo, to give them a deserved lead.
Milan immediately took their foot off the gas after going in front, and their lead looked to have been short lived when Biagio Meccariello thundered the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma just before half time, only for the assistant referee’s flag to spare their blushes.
Former Rossoneri striker Gianluca Lapadula also came close to levelling the scores when he found himself with a clear sight of goal on the stroke of half time, but he sent his shot just wide of Donnarumma’s post ensuring the visitors went into the break with the advantage.
It was the Salentini who remained in the ascendancy after the break when substitute Khouma Babacar sent a shot agonisingly wide just after the restart.
The game then burst into life with three goals inside two minutes. first Mancosu brought the home side level from the penalty spot, after Babacar was brought down by Matteo Gabbia in the box.
Parity was restored for only 60 seconds when, the previously faultless, Gabriel spilled Calhanoglu’s long range shot and Bonaventura slotted home from close range.
Then Rebic inexplicably found himself unmarked and with a clear run on goal from the halfway line, he made the the hosts pay for their poor defending as he calmly gave the Rossoneri a two goal lead.
Any hopes of a Lecce fightback were ended as the game entered its final third when Leao thundered a header past a forlorn Gabriel to give the Rossoneri an insurmountable lead.