Giroud Ends Milan Slump With Torino Winner
Olivier Giroud ended AC Milan’s dramatic slump with the only goal in Friday’s 1-0 win over Torino which moved the champions back into the Serie A top four.
France striker Giroud claimed the points for Milan with a trademark header from Theo Hernandez’s cross midway through the second half at the San Siro, snapping a three-match losing streak in Italy’s top flight.
His seventh league goal of the campaign moved Milan up to third, 15 points behind runaway league leaders Napoli who host Cremonese on Sunday night.
Milan are two points behind second-placed local rivals Inter Milan and also have Roma, Lazio and Atalanta all within three points behind them and still to play this weekend.
“His goal kind of unblocked us mentally and we were much better to watch afterwards. It’s a small step forward that we needed,” said coach Stefano Pioli.
The win will be a boost for Milan ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
Milan came into Friday’s match having not won any of their previous seven fixtures in all competitions, a dreadful run of form which left Pioli conceding the Scudetto won on the final day of last season.
Pioli stuck with the recent change to a three-man defence trialled in last weekend’s derby defeat to Inter Milan and although the result was this time a positive one, the performance will not have Tottenham unduly worried.
However it was the first time Milan didn’t concede a goal since the turn of the year, holding off a spirited Torino side who stay on 30 points in seventh and missed the chance to close in on the European places.
Winger Rafael Leao was back in the starting line-up after being dropped for Milan’s most recent two losses and provided some of the cut and thrust which has made him such a star in Italy.
His burst down the left flank in the 77th minute should have led to Hernandez doubling the hosts’ lead, only for the France full-back to slash wide a dreadful first-time finish.
“It was a big win for us… when you lose a lot of matches like we did it’s all mental,” said Hernandez.
“After the World Cup I was feeling a bit down but now I think I’m back.”
Veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the bench, the first time he had been picked since May last year after having the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee reconstructed.
Ibrahimovic, whose contract expires at the end of the season, returned to Milan in January 2020 eight years after leaving and his arrival kick-started their return to the top of the Italian game.