MILAN (AP) — Milan showed signs of life after a Champions League disappointment this week, having already boosted its hopes of advancing to the continental tournament’s next edition by thrashing Sampdoria 5-1 on Saturday.
Olivier Giroud got his first hat-trick in Serie A, Rafael Leao also scored and Brahim Díaz assisted on two goals, crowning his fine performance with an own goal in the second half.
Leo was also a supplier on Giroud’s third goal and managed to get the penalty.
Milan moved one point behind Lazio, who are in fourth, and two behind Inter. Lazio visits Udinese this Sunday, immediately after playing Inter at home to new Italian champions, Napoli.
Sunday’s activity will be followed by two more dates.
On Tuesday, Milan lost 1-0 to Inter in the Champions League semi-finals and were eliminated 3-0 on aggregate.
Leão was absent from the first leg due to a thigh injury and did not feature fully in the second leg. Rather he showed his best form on Saturday.
He followed the ball to Diaz on nine minutes and controlled it before firing. Leão smiled even before the ball hit the net.
Sampdoria equalized through 40-year-old Fabio Quagliarella, who has scored for 18 consecutive seasons in Italy’s top flight.
However, Milan restored their lead three minutes later when Giroud headed in Díaz’s cross from a corner.
Giroud doubled his tally in the 29th minute by converting the penalty after Leão was brought down by defender Corey Gunter.
The Rossoneri didn’t slow down after the break. Díaz got his name on the scoreboard on 63 after a good combination with Leão and Sandro Tonali.
Giroud completed his “hat trick” minutes later, beating defender Bram Bram Neutink to head a Leão cross on goal.
Atalanta kept alive their slim chances of qualifying for the European tournament by beating relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 3-1 in Serie A on Saturday.
Atalanta is three points behind Milan. Verona remain level on points with Spezia, who are in 17th place.
Atalanta had lost their last two league games without scoring and fell behind again after 11 minutes when Darko Lajovic received an assist from Filippo Terraciano and fired into the corner.
But Davide Zappacosta equalized after 11 minutes with a powerful shot from outside the box.
Verano gave the advantage at the start of the supplementary part. Goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo tried to dribble Mario Pasalić in his own penalty area, but the midfielder stole the ball and sent it home.
Rasmus Hjolund sealed the result in the 62nd minute with another ferocious shot from outside the box.
Cremonese were nearly relegated after a 5–1 home defeat to Bologna.
This gave the team six points from the fixture. A Spezia point against Lecce on Sunday would be enough to condemn Cremonese to Serie B, along with Sampdoria, which is Colero.
Marko Arnautovic, Lewis Ferguson and Stefan Pausch scored for Bologna in the first half before Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone completed the defeat. Orsolini was sent off for a second yellow after 73 minutes.
Daniele Cioffani scored a consolation goal in extra time.