Sandro Tonali starred for AC Milan as Stefano Pioli’s side came back to beat Hellas Verona and return to the top of the Serie A table.

AC Milan responded brilliantly to the gauntlet laid down by arch-rivals Inter Milan from earlier in the week to regain the initiative in the Serie A title race.

The Rossoneri started off brightly and took the game to the home side, Hellas Verona. Birthday boy, Sandro Tonali was right in the thick of the action and appeared to open the scoring with a well-taken effort in the 16th minute. Unfortunately for AC Milan, the strike was ruled out for offside.

Stefano Pioli’s men kept pushing but fell behind to a Davide Faraoni goal in the 38th minute. However, AC Milan did not blink and hit back immediately courtesy of Tonali. The Italian midfielder’s first-half stoppage-time strike saw the sides go in at the break on level terms.

Milan continued from where they left off in the second half, taking the lead thanks to Tonali’s second of the game. Substitute Alessandro Florenzi guaranteed the visitors all three points with an 86th-minute strike.

The win has taken AC Milan back to the top of the Serie A table, two points ahead of defending champions Inter. With just two games to go, the Rossoneri hold the initiative when it comes to the Scudetto race. They should win their first title in over a decade as long as they win the remaining matches. The Hard Tackle now looks at how the Milan players fared on the night.

Mike Maignan: 7/10

The Frenchman cannot be faulted for Verona’s opener and had little chance of saving it. Maignan was not troubled much on the night and played a crucial role in kick-starting attacks from the back.

Davide Calabria: 6/10

Calabria did well at both ends of the pitch but lacked conviction. Darko Lazovic beat him a few times and got the better of him in the lead-up to Verona’s opener. Calabria also made a few darting runs forward and struck one shot on target that was well saved.

Pierre Kalulu: 7/10

The Frenchman looked assured at the back and communicated well with Tomori. His ability on the ball adds another dimension to the Milan formation as he often brought the ball out of defence and sprays it around to kick-start waves of relentless attacks.

Fikayo Tomori: 7/10

A carbon copy of Kalulu, the Englishman was on the same wavelength as his teammate and did not put a foot wrong. Tomori’s ability on the ball also saw him glide through the game as Milan played a high backline. He looks increasingly assured of himself and looks set to play a major role in the weeks to come.

Theo Hernandez: 5/10

The French international cannot be faulted for his effort. His application, however, was questionable. He never quite got going and appeared nervous throughout. Hernandez, to his credit, did not let Verona grab the initiative on his flank and kept things simple when needed.

Sandro Tonali: 9/10

The Italian midfielder became the first player in Serie A to score a brace on his birthday. It was a seminal performance by Tonali who was up for the game all night and was not afraid to take risks when needed. He worked tirelessly all night and pushed up whenever he got the chance. His ability to be clinical in good positions made the difference on the night.

Franck Kessie: 7/10

The Ivorian put in a tireless shift and was not afraid to get stuck-in when needed. He harassed the Verona midfield, winning back the ball on numerous occasions. He looks set to depart from San Siro in the summer with a bang.

Alexis Saelemaekers: 7/10

The Belgian got the nod over Junior Messias and to his credit, he put in a good performance. Saelemaekers has struggled for form in recent months but seemed up for the game on the night. His application and intent cannot be questioned, but his final touch still needs some work.

Rade Krunic: 7/10

Krunic was a surprise inclusion in the starting XI but proved his worth with an inspired performance. He remained cool under pressure and ensured that the ball was played into the right channels. Krunic’s form certainly appears to have turned a corner, and he seems far more assured on the ball.

Rafael Leao: 8/10

The Portuguese winger is indispensable for AC Milan and on Sunday night, he showcased just why. Leao set up both of Tonali’s goals, playing a huge role in Milan winning the game. Leao often ran at the Verona defence and was a thorn in the home side’s defence. The only dampener was him picking up a yellow card. He now risks missing the final game of the season is gets booked this weekend.

Olivier Giroud: 5/10

The French veteran has netted some crucial goals this season. However, he struggled to impose himself on the night and never really got involved. Giroud, to his credit, still continued to win several fouls.

SUBSTITUTES

Ante Rebic: 7/10

The Croat was a handful on the night and an upgrade over Olivier Giroud. He pressed from the front and even made several key passes, one of which Junior Messias contrived to miss. Rebic deserves much credit for the role he played after coming on.

Junior Messias: 6/10

The Brazilian had a golden opportunity to score but somehow contrived to miss Rebic’s pass. But he did set up Florenzi’s decider with an excellent flick and largely did his job off the bench. With Saelemaekers also finding form, it would appear that both of Milan’s right-wingers are up to the task in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Ismael Bennacer: 6/10

He initially struggled but slowly got himself more involved. Bennacer helped calm down the Milan midfield and enabled them to neutralise Verona’s attacks.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: N/A

Ibrahimovic never really got involved and looked rather rusty. However, his availability could make a difference in the final couple of games.

Alessandro Florenzi: 8/10

It was a stunning impact by a player who only recently returned from injury. He did not just grab Milan’s third goal of the night but also put in an assured defensive display.

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