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Serie A: AC Milan Take a Five Point Lead at the Top

AC Milan took another significant step toward their first Serie A title since 2011 by grinding out a 1-0 win at home to Empoli on Saturday.

Victory sent Milan five points clear of defending champion Inter Milan in second place and six clear of third-place Napoli, with both teams not playing until the following day.

Juventus remained seven points behind Milan after winning 3-1 at relegation-threatened Sampdoria.

Milan were boosted by a recent win over title rival Napoli. Olivier Giroud had scored the only goal in that game and he also had a role in the Rossoneri’s sole goal against midtable Empoli.

Empoli failed to clear Giroud’s free kick and it came to fellow Frenchman Pierre Kalulu, who curled the ball into the bottom left corner in the 19th minute for the defender’s second-ever goal for Milan.

Giroud almost got onto the scoresheet himself on the stroke of halftime but his header was palmed off the line by Guglielmo Vicario, and Franck Kessié’s volley was charged down in the area.

Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan made a couple of crucial saves in the second half.

MAGICAL MORATA

Álvaro Morata scored twice as Juventus kept their reignited title hopes alive.

Sampdoria defender Maya Yoshida also scored an own-goal while Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny saved a penalty.

Juventus remained fourth .

It was Juve’s 15th league match without defeat, a run stretching back to November. Sampdoria remained four points above the bottom three.

The Bianconeri were still missing a number of players but took the lead in the 23rd minute. Following a counterattack, Morata found Juan Cuadrado and his low cross was bundled by Yoshida into his own net.

Juventus doubled their tally 11 minutes later when Sampdoria defender Omar Colley went into the back of Moise Kean in the area and Morata converted the resulting penalty.

Sampdoria was awarded a penalty of their own in the 74th minute following a handball by Adrien Rabiot but Antonio Candreva saw his spot kick saved by Szczęsny.

But the home side did get back into the match 10 minutes later when Abdelhamid Sabiri’s free kick took a huge deflection off Morata for the Sampdoria midfielder’s first Serie A goal.

However, Juventus sealed the points two minutes from time as Manuel Locatelli whipped in a cross from the right and Morata’s hopeful header from a tight angle went in off the leg of goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

RELEGATION FIGHT

Spezia boosted thier hopes of avoiding relegation by beating fellow struggler Cagliari 2-0.

Martin Erlić and Rey Manaj scored to snap a run of four straight defeats for Spezia and send them seven points clear of the bottom three although 18th-place Venezia have played two fewer matches. Cagliari are three points above the drop zone.

Spezia forward Daniele Verde also had a first-half penalty saved by Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno.

Bottom club Salernitana snatched a 2-2 draw against Sassuolo, who played for more than half an hour with 10 men.

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