ROME (Reuters) - AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said referee Marco Serra apologised for an error that cost the Rossoneri a late, potentially match-winning, goal in their shock 2-1 Serie A defeat against Spezia on Monday.
Junior Messias fired home in stoppage time when the score was 1-1, but the goal did not stand as Serra had already blown his whistle to give a foul to Milan for a trip on Ante Rebic.
Only around two seconds passed between the foul and the shot, but no advantage was played, and the fury of the Milan players only grew when Spezia went up the other end to score a 96th-minute winner.
“Never has the responsibility been equally divided like it is this evening between us, because we only scored one goal and conceded an avoidable one, and the obvious error of the referee, which changed the final result,” Pioli told a news conference.
“After that error, the team lost everything it could have lost, in terms of focus and concentration.
“The referee has apologised. I am sorry for the man, he immediately apologised and put his hands up because he realised he had got it wrong.”
It was a damaging defeat for Milan, who would have gone top with a win but instead remain two points behind leaders Inter Milan, who have a game in hand.
But the Rossoneri have a chance to make amends and get their title bid back on track in their next two games, against fifth-placed Juventus and Inter.
“The Inter and Juve games are coming at the right moment. After an evening like this, it is better to have matches this motivating, where we can show we have grown a lot mentally and with our character,” Pioli added.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)