Spezia 2-0 Milan: Wisniewski and Esposito strike to dent Rossoneri's top-four hopes
Milan's hopes of finishing in Serie A's top four received another blow on Saturday as they were beaten 2-0 by relegation-threatened Spezia.
The Rossoneri headed to Stadio Alberto Picco on a seven-match league unbeaten run but still stinging from Wednesday's 2-0 first-leg defeat to city rivals Inter in the Champions League semi-finals.
Stefano Pioli's men put in another frustrating display against stubborn Spezia, twice denied by the post before Przemyslaw Wisniewski and Salvatore Esposito struck late on as the hosts claimed three points for the first time in nine league games.
The result means fifth-placed Milan remain two points behind fourth-placed Inter and three ahead of Roma, though both of those teams could yet take advantage of their latest slip-up this weekend, leaving the Rossoneri with work to do to attain Champions League qualification.
Milan hit the woodwork seven minutes in through Sandro Tonali, who sent a low effort flying towards the bottom-left corner but watched it come back off the post.
Bartlomiej Dragowski then made a crucial stop to tip Theo Hernandez's rasping drive over the crossbar as Milan failed to break through Spezia's resilient defence.
The hosts went close shortly after the break as Mehdi Bourabia curled just over from range, while Brahim Diaz hit the outside of the post for Milan from a very tight angle.
Spezia hit the front with 15 minutes remaining, Kelvin Amian hitting the post from a corner before Wisniewski poked in the rebound to send the home fans into raptures.
Their victory was made safe five minutes from time, Esposito curling a delightful free-kick over the wall and into the top-left corner as Milan's dismal week ended on another sour note.
What does it mean? Milan continue to falter
While the Rossoneri's Serie A unbeaten run stood at seven games ahead of their trip to La Spezia, they had won just three of those matches and once again flattered to deceive against a home side in serious danger of relegation.
Pioli's men hit the woodwork twice but can have little complaints about coming away with no points as Spezia accumulated 1.71 xG (expected goals) to Milan's 1, as well as creating three big chances to the 19-time Serie A champions' one.
Reca plays starring role
Arkadiusz Reca had a superb game at left wing-back to help his team to what could be three vital points in their fight against the drop, with Spezia now only in the bottom three on goal difference.
Reca led his side in key passes (four), while no Spezia player had more shots (three), touches (63) or completed crosses (four).
Rebic struggles up top
With Olivier Giroud only named on the bench and Rafael Leao absent from the squad altogether, Ante Rebic's blunt display for Milan largely summed up his team's attacking efforts.
The striker failed to hit the target with his only shot, managed just 21 touches and completed just seven passes before Pioli saw enough, replacing him with Giroud in the 71st minute.
Key Opta facts
- Following their 2-1 home win over Inter in March, Spezia have beaten both Milan clubs on their own turf in the same Serie A season for the first time.
- Meanwhile, Spezia's only two league wins under head coach Leonardo Semplici have come against the Rossoneri and the Nerazzurri.
- Across the last four seasons (since 2019-20), only James Ward-Prowse (13) and Lionel Messi (10) have scored more goals from direct free-kicks than Esposito (eight) in Europe's top five leagues and their respective second divisions.
- Tonali has hit the woodwork in each of his last two games, against Inter in the Champions League and Spezia here. He had only hit the woodwork twice across his previous five seasons before this campaign.
- Milan have failed to score in back-to-back games for the first time since January, when they were beaten 3-0 by Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana and 4-0 by Lazio in Serie A.
Milan will look to pull off a miraculous comeback on Tuesday when they face Inter at San Siro in the Champions League semi-finals, looking to overturn a two-goal deficit.
Meanwhile, Spezia's next game is a trip to face fellow strugglers Lecce in Serie A next weekend.