Zlatan Ibrahimovic recovered from injury, coming off the bench for the final five minutes, as AC Milan beat Torino 2-0 on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Champions Juventus ended Milan’s 27-game unbeaten streak in March last weekend.
But Rafael Leao and a penalty from Franck Kessie in the first half allowed Milan to pass four points in front of Inter who will go to Roma, third on Sunday.
Atalanta moved up to fourth ahead of Juventus after Josip Ilicic scored and scored two more goals in a 4-1 win over Benevento.
In Milan, Ibrahimovic started on the bench, having been sacked since the end of November with a problem with his thigh and then with his calf.
The 39-year-old Swede took over after 85 minutes in place of Leao in a game the hosts had dominated against humble Torino.
Leao led the way in Milan after 25 minutes after Theo Hernandez sent the ball to Brahim Diaz to pass to the Portuguese striker to beat Torino keeper Salvatore Sirigu.
Leao, 21, was in good shape in Ibrahimovic’s absence, scoring the fastest goal in Serie A history after just six seconds before Christmas.
Kessie calmly scored on the second goal from the penalty spot after 36 minutes after a VAR exam found Torino captain Andrea Belotti to trip Diaz.
Ricardo Rodriguez missed a scoring chance for Torino against his former club, smacking the crossbar before the break with Sirigu denying Kessie from close range.
Milan’s injury problems were made worse when midfielder Sandro Tonali was sent off five minutes after the break after a collision with Simone Verdi.
Hosts were initially given a penalty for the incident which was waived after a VAR review.
Former Milan coach Marco Giampaolo’s Turin side managed a few shots on goal, with Gianluigi Donnarumma easily clearing a Belotti header after 72 minutes.
Torino slipped to 19th place with Genoa leaving the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Bologna whose winless streak extended to eight games.
– Ilicic inspire Atalanta –
At Benevento, Ilicic proved he was back to his best form after taking a two-month absence due to personal issues following the first coronavirus lockdown.
The Slovenian forward has always been impressive, with Atalanta captain Papu Gomez still frozen after facing manager Gian Piero Gasperini.
“We are now in the championship,” Gasperini said after a third consecutive victory.
“It’s a great time for us, we have regained confidence, the ability to play for 90 minutes and also (regained) enthusiasm. ”
Ilicic put the visitors ahead after half an hour, embarking on a solo run down the right flank, dribbling three defenders and shooting to the near post, between the legs of center-back Kamil Glik.
He was denied a second by the post soon after with fierce long-distance training, having also provided perfect crosses for Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who squandered the chances.
Marco Sau brought Benevento back to level five minutes after the break, with Zapata having a goal ruled out for offside.
But Ilicic was instrumental in Atalanta’s next two goals, as Benevento goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo pushed his effort in the 69th minute into the path of Rafael Toloi who scored on the rebound.
Two minutes later, Ilicic was the creator again with a brilliant crossover so Zapata could hit third at close range.
Substitute Luis Muriel curled up from the edge of the zone four minutes from time for his 10th league goal this season, and the sixth in five games.
Gasperini said the decision to keep Argentina’s Gomez away was “a technical choice”.
“I needed to try a different kind of system because I saw that we were suffering in midfield and that Gomez did not adapt. ”
Fifth-placed Juve face a tough home game on Sunday against sixth-placed Sassuolo.
Andrea Pirlo’s team does not have three players suffering from coronavirus in Alex Sandro, Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs de Ligt.
© 2021 AFP