AC Milan climbed to second place in Serie A with a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Benevento at San Siro on Saturday thanks to goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez.
Stefano Pioli’s side were under pressure to get a result after back-to-back defeats by Sassuolo and Lazio, and a goal in each half earned a deserved win that worsened the visitors’ crisis.
Milan rose to provisional second spot on 69 points before their top-four rivals Atalanta (68 points), Napoli (66) and Juventus (66) play on Sunday.
Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu got on the scoresheet as AC Milan won 2-0
Hernandez slots home for Milan’s second of the night against Benevento on Saturday
This year’s tally is already the Milanese club’s biggest points total in a Serie A season since 2012-13, when they finished with 72 points, and they still have another four games to play.
‘It was essential to win. In Rome (against Lazio) we did not do well and we knew that. Now there are four matches left and we must do more and more,’ Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli told DAZN.
The result extended Benevento’s winless league run to six games and Filippo Inzaghi’s side remain 18th on 31 points.
Milan were boosted by the return to fitness of top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who missed his side’s last three league games through injury and suspension, and they looked far more dangerous with the talismanic Swede on the pitch.
Calhanoglu steered a shot into the bottom corner following a well-worked passing move after six minutes, and Hernandez threatened a second but was denied by a flying Lorenzo Montipo save.
Hakan Calhanoglu had given Milan the perfect start, putting them ahead inside six minutes
Ibrahimovic came close either side of the break but on both occasions his finishes were blocked by the legs of the impressive Benevento goalkeeper, before Iago Falque drilled a fierce shot just wide for the visitors.
Montipo appeared determined to frustrate Ibrahimovic as he charged down another effort from the 39-year-old.
But Milan eventually doubled their lead when Montipo could only parry an Ibrahimovic shot into the path of Hernandez, who fired home the rebound.
Gianluca Lapadula’s glancing header was narrowly wide for the visitors, but Milan held on for an important win ahead of their visit to Juventus next Sunday.
Calhanoglu strikes home to the goalkeeper’s left with Milan getting off to the start required