AC Milan fell short once again against Napoli to hand over the initiative in the Serie A title race to arch-rivals and neighbours Inter Milan.

AC Milan showed their fragile underbelly in their home loss to Liverpool earlier this month. The Italian giants failed to use the home advantage to put a second choice Reds’ side to the sword and fell apart at the application of the slightest pressure.

The loss did not only knock them out of the UEFA Champions League but also Europe altogether. If the plan was to exit the competition and focus on Serie A, it has gone wrong so far. Stefano Pioli’s men have taken just one point in the two league games since and find themselves in third place, four points off the summit.

Once again at home, the game against Napoli was an opportunity for the Rossoneri to keep pace with defending champions Inter Milan. While Milan were certainly not helped by injuries to key players, the performance on the night left much to be desired. Napoli came into the game on the back of just one win in five series A games.

However, the Partenopei were the ones who looked up for the battle and have now overtaken Milan in the league standings. Elif Elmas’s fifth-minute strike was the difference-maker on the night. Napoli looked unlikely to relinquish their early lead and were also helped by Milan’s lack of initiative.

Unless something is done soon, Milan could continue to drop and lose all the progress they have made in recent months. Luck, too, appears to have abandoned them as Franck Kessie’s well-taken equaliser was controversially ruled out. The Hard Tackle looks at how the Milan players performed on Sunday night.

Mike Maignan: 6/10

The Frenchman could have done little to stop the goal but was otherwise very comfortable between the sticks. Napoli failed to test him much on the night, but the lone goal he conceded turned out to be the difference-maker. Maignan also did his best in the build-up to his side’s attacks, but little came off it.

Alessandro Florenzi: 6/10

The Italian veteran did his best, but his lack of initiative was apparent at times. He made a couple of good interceptions but was wayward with his crossing. Florenzi’s forward forays breathed life into a frontline that lacked imagination at times.

Fikayo Tomori: 7/10

The Englishman was solid and did little wrong. He won most of his duels on the night and, in particular, made a sensational block to deny Andrea Petagna what looked like an easy goal. His development at Milan appears to be coming off nicely.

Alessio Romagnoli: 7/10

The senior of the two centre-backs on the night, Romagnoli rose to the challenge and took responsibility for his performances at the back. He did his best to kick-start attacks from the back and can be accused of doing little wrong on the night.

Fode Ballo-Toure: 5/10

The weak link in the Milan defence on the night, the Senegalese international struggled to make much of an impact at either end of the pitch. His indecisiveness while defending caused the Rossoneri numerous problems. He put in a few good crosses but made little attempt to get forward and support the attack. There is much to be done if he is keen to become a regular.

Sandro Tonali: 5/10

The Italian ace gave it his best, but it was ultimately not enough. More so, his error led to Napoli’s winner on the night. Tonali has, on more than one occasion, stood out for Milan. However, on Sunday night, his actions did little to influence his side for the better.

Franck Kessie: 6/10

The Ivory Coast international had a birthday to forget as he put in another so-so performance. Kessie has failed to live up to his standards from last season, and it showed against Napoli. He did seem to have drawn his side level only for the goal to be ruled out. He did his best to keep the ball moving forward but could not make that final pass and lost possession all too easily.

Junior Messias: 5/10

The Brazilian showed effort, but it made little difference on the night. He appeared wary of Giovanni Di Lorenzo and did not trouble the Italian enough. Largely passable, Messias had little to no impact on the game.

Brahim Diaz: 5/10

The young Spaniard put in another performance as Mr. Invisible and could not impact proceedings on the field. Indecisive with the ball and clueless without it, the number 10 looked lost for ideas. It is fair to say that if Milan had an alternative, the youngster would find opportunities harder to come by.

Rade Krunic: 5/10

A rather anonymous performance by the Croat, who could have been Diaz’s sidekick in going missing. Most of his actions were focused on covering for Ballo-Toure on the front, and he offered little to nothing in the final third. The 28-year-old failed to make use of the opportunity to stake his claim for a regular starting spot.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 5/10

The veteran striker was too static to make much of a difference and barely ran behind the Napoli defenders. He looked happy making speculative shots and attempts that hoped for the best rather than offering something more constructive.

SUBSTITUTES

Alexis Saelemaekers: 6/10

The Belgian replaced the ineffective Krunic and, to his credit, offered more of an attacking threat down the left flank. He looked up for the challenge and did his best, even if it did not translate to anything substantial.

Olivier Giroud: 5/10

The Frenchman replaced Diaz but was barely an improvement. Giroud won a few duels for his side but was also offside in the build-up to Kessie’s goal that was eventually ruled out.

Samu Castillejo: N/A

Castillejo replaced Messias but offered little.

Ismael Bennacer: N/A

Bennacer came on for the well-intentioned but struggling Tonali but never quite made a difference.

Pierre Kalulu: N/A

Kalulu replaced Florenzi late on but had little time to make any impact.

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