MILAN (AP) — In front of the club’s new owners, Rafael Leão inspired AC Milan to a 3-2 victory over fierce rival Inter Milan in a fiery Serie A derby on Saturday.
With his teammates and coach Stefano Pioli, Leão celebrated wildly with the fans after the match as they joyously danced and sang “Pioli’s on fire” (to the tune of “Freed from Desire”).
“Apart from the song, it is the energy that makes me so happy. And sharing that with the fans,” Pioli said. “It was an important match ... I am really a happy manager.”
Leão had a hand in all three Milan goals, scoring two and setting up the other for Olivier Giroud.
Marcelo Brozović gave Inter the lead in the 21st minute and Edin Džeko pulled one back for the Nerazzurri in the 67th.
“In order to improve, you need talent and intelligence. Rafa has talent and he is a very intelligent guy,” Pioli said about Leão.
“You need to give youngsters the time to grow and the freedom to make mistakes. We try to put him in the best conditions: he’s one of our weapons, not the only one, but an important one. ... Rafa is someone who understands, listens, and knows that he must never be satisfied. He knows that with this talent he can aim for the skies.”
Milan moved to the top of Serie A. Napoli joined the defending champion after winning 2-1 at Lazio, which fell to its first defeat. Juventus struggled to draw at Fiorentina 1-1 earlier.
Milan announced the closing of its latest ownership change on Wednesday, when RedBird Capital Partners took a controlling interest and the New York Yankees a minority stake. Gerry Cardinale, the founder and managing partner of RedBird, was in the stands at San Siro for the Derby della Madonnina.
This matchup of Italy’s best clubs saw Inter break the deadlock against the run of play when Lautaro Martínez backheeled to Joaquín Correa, who released Brozović to slot into the bottom left corner.
Boos rang out from Milan fans every time former player Hakan Çalhanoğlu touched the ball, and it was much to their delight that a wayward pass from him led to the equalizer seven minutes later. Sandro Tonali intercepted the ball and raced forward before side-footing it across for Leão to blast in.
It was all Milan as Inter struggled to get out of its own half. The Rossoneri went ahead when Leão picked out Giroud and his flicked effort bobbled past hapless Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanović.
Leão doubled his tally six minutes later with a magnificent goal as he shimmied past three Inter defenders before firing into the bottom right corner from a tight angle.
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi rang the changes and two substitutes had an immediate impact; Džeko fired Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross in off the left post.
United States defender Sergiño Dest was an unused substitute after joining Milan on loan from Barcelona on Thursday.
There was more disappointment for Juventus as it didn’t even have a shot on target in the second half in Florence, while new signing Leandro Paredes gave away a penalty.
Fellow new signing Arkadiusz Milik gave Juventus the lead in the ninth minute with his second goal in as many matches.
Fiorentina equalized from a counterattack that was finished by Christian Kouamé in the 29th.
Just before halftime, Fiorentina was awarded a penalty for a handball by Paredes. But Mattia Perin, standing in again for the injured Wojciech Szczęsny, pushed Luka Jović’s spot kick onto the post.
Juventus has saved four of the last seven penalties it has faced in Serie A.
Napoli’s new signings shone as Kim Min-jae and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia cancelled out Mattia Zaccagni’s early opener for Lazio.