Soccer-Superb Leao helps Milan go top of Serie A with win over Lazio

Soccer Football - Serie A - AC Milan v Lazio - San Siro, Milan, Italy - September 30, 2023 AC Milan's Christian Pulisic celebrates after the match REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

MILAN (Reuters) -Christian Pulisic and Noah Okafor put AC Milan provisionally top of Serie A on Saturday, with their second-half goals sealing a 2-0 home victory against Lazio.

Rafael Leao played a vital role in both goals with the 24-year-old Portugal international providing two assists in a menacing display in which he created several other opportunities.

Milan are top of the table with 18 points after seven matches, three points ahead of Inter Milan who play Salernitana later on Saturday. Lazio are 14th with seven points.

"After the break, we were more compact and certainly more energetic, hungrier and more determined," Milan coach Stefano Pioli told DAZN.

"That is a great sign when playing every three days and it was a fully deserved victory."

On the hour mark, Leao found Pulisic in the box and the American sent a powerful half-volley past Lazio keeper Ivan Provedel, igniting a frenzy among the San Siro crowd.

In the 88th minute, Leao reached the byline where he drew out Provedel before delivering a pass to Okafor, who calmly tapped in to double the lead and seal the match.

Lazio's Felipe Anderson had the first opportunity, exploiting an opening in Milan's defence on the left only to find the side-netting with his shot.

Tijjani Reijnders went tantalisingly close to scoring for the hosts in the last moments of the first half, but his back-heeled finish struck the outside of the post.

Milan's previous efforts to extend their lead had been thwarted by some impressive saves by Provedel, who kept the visitors in the match until the final minutes.

Lazio thought they had grabbed a consolation goal in the dying moments, as Pedro unleashed a beautiful curler into the top corner, only for it to be disallowed for an earlier offside.

Milan suffered a potential injury blow as midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek limped off in the first half.

"It would be a shame if we lost Ruben, he felt a twinge near the groin area," Pioli said, adding that he hoped it was nothing serious.

"Unfortunately, injuries tend to come when players are in good shape."

Milan visit Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday before travelling to Genoa for a league match on Oct. 7.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)

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