Giroud keeps Milan in top-four hunt


Olivier Giroud struck a hat-trick as AC Milan crushed relegated Sampdoria 5-1 on Saturday to keep alive hopes of a top-four finish in Serie A.

Earlier, Atalanta came from behind to beat Verona 3-1, a result that lifted the winners back into a European berth and also kept alive Cremonese’s slim hopes of survival despite a 5-1 home humiliation against Bologna in the first match of the day.

Milan ended a run of three straight defeats, including two at the San Siro against Inter in the Champions League semi-final, with an emphatic victory over a team dead last in the table.

Rafael Leao gave Milan the lead after nine minutes.

After 40-year-old Fabio Quagliarella replied with the 182nd Serie A goal of his career, but the first this season, another veteran, Giroud took over.

The 36-year-old Frenchman headed Milan back ahead in the 23rd minute. He converted a 29th minute penalty after Leao was fouled.

Brahim Diaz added a fourth after 63 minutes. Five minutes later Giroud won a wrestling match with Bram Nuytinck before poking the bouncing ball home as both men fell to the ground.

Milan regained fifth place, one point behind Lazio and two behind Inter. Next weekend, Milan visit second-placed Juventus.

Atalanta had briefly taken fifth by beating Verona. Darko Lazovic gave the visitors an 11th minute lead.

Davide Zappacosta replied before half time for Atalanta but the game pivoted on a 53rd-minute moment of recklessness by visiting goalie Lorenzo Montipo who attempted a Cruyff turn in his own six-yard box, and failed.

The ball bounced off his standing leg to Mario Pasalic who popped it into the net.

Rasmus Hojlund ended resistance by blasting a third.

Verona stayed in the relegation places behind Spezia on goal difference. The pair are six points ahead of Cremonese who have two matches to go but stayed alive despite some woeful defending as they were thrashed at home by Bologna.

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