Olivier Giroud was the hero as AC Milan secured a massive win in a virtual six-pointer against Napoli to go top of the Serie A table.

AC Milan won back-to-back games away to SSC Napoli for the first time since 1981. French veteran Olivier Giroud was the hero of the night as AC Milan ended their Diego Armando Maradona Stadium hoodoo with an impressive 1-0 win over the Partenopei.

Both teams went into the game a point behind defending champions Inter Milan in the race for the Scudetto. A win was necessary for both sides going into the clash, and it was Milan who delivered.

While Giroud made the difference up front, the three points were made possible thanks to the solidity offered at the back by Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu. The duo anchored the Milan rearguard well, keeping Napoli at bay all night.

The win takes Stefano Pioli’s side to the Serie A summit. They now hold a two-point advantage over Inter, albeit having played a game more. While the Nerazzurri still hold the initiative thanks to the game in hand, Milan’s win keeps the pressure on the Serie A champions going into the final rounds of the campaign.

Having defeated Inter Milan and Napoli in recent weeks, Milan can go into the upcoming games full of confidence. For now, The Hard Tackle looks at how the Rossoneri stars fared on the night against Napoli.

Mike Maignan: 6/10

The Frenchman did not have much to worry about but was solid when needed. Victor Osimhen threatened the most out of Napoli’s attackers, but it was not enough to beat the Milan goalkeeper. Maignan also showed off his excellent distribution and kicked off several attacks from the back.

Davide Calabria: 5/10

The right-back was among Milan’s poorest players on the night and looked uncomfortable with the ball. Napoli found some joy on his flank as he struggled to come to terms in the first 45 minutes. All in all, a disappointing night out for one of Milan’s best players.

Pierre Kalulu: 8/10

The youngster rose to the occasion and was a colossus at the back for Milan. He got stuck into Osimhen and coordinated well with Fikayo Tomori to shut out Napoli. He was unruffled all night and looked very comfortable with the ball.

Fikayo Tomori: 8/10

The senior centre-back on the night, Tomori looked at home alongside Kalulu and took great joy in snuffing out the Napoli attacks. He was largely dependable all night and showed his awareness with and without the ball.

Theo Hernandez: 7/10

The French international was back to his best and showed great bursts of energy all night. The 24-year-old did not just show his prowess going forward but also displayed his defensive nous. It was an all-action performance by a player who appears to be getting back to his best.

Sandro Tonali: 5/10

The Italian midfielder is usually a calm customer in the middle of the pitch, but to Napoli’s credit, they shackled him well on the night. Tonali did not find space easy to come by and was often hassled when he had the ball. A forgettable night for a player who was rightly taken off early.

Ismael Bennacer: 7/10

Unlike Tonali, Bennacer was up for the game and did well, especially with the ball. He retained possession well and also kept the ball ticking as Milan looked to win the midfield battle.

Junior Messias: 6/10

The Brazilian was not outstanding on the night but lacked the end product. Messias made several darting runs and even showed a few excellent touches. It did not, however, translate to goal contributions.

Franck Kessie: 7/10

The Ivorian international was excellent on the night and showed exactly what Milan were missing in the number 10 role. Kessie made use of his excellent ability on the ball and energy to throw the Napoli defence into disarray. He also showed enough awareness to shield the ball in the final minute as Milan sought to see out the game.

Rafael Leao: 7/10

The Portuguese winger thrilled but lacked the final product. His movement opened up space for Milan to attack, paving the way to overwhelm the Napoli defence. He had the opposition defence on their toes and was a consistent threat for Napoli all night.

Olivier Giroud: 8/10

The French World Cup winner scored his first Serie A goal away from San Siro, and what a time to do so. The strike was similar to what he put away against Inter, handing Milan a similar result. The winner could prove to be pivotal come the end of the season.

SUBSTITUTES

Ante Rebic: 6/10

The Croat was up for the game and applied continued pressure on the Napoli defence. He made several intelligent runs and should have assisted in the final few minutes. Unfortunately for him, Alexis Saelemaekers somehow contrived to miss.

Rade Krunic: 6/10

He came on to add physicality to the Milan side and did just that. Krunic also used several reserves of energy to help pin Napoli back.

Alessandro Florenzi: 6/10

The Italian did well and helped ease Milan’s efforts in seeing out the game.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 5/10

The Belgian had another forgettable night where his finishing was disappointing. Just how he managed to miss an empty net is debatable.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: N/A

The veteran striker came on late but had little time to make an impact.

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