Soccer-Late Okafor strike earns Milan 1-0 win at eight-man Lazio


Soccer Football - Serie A - Lazio v AC Milan - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - March 1, 2024 AC Milan's Noah Okafor celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

ROME (Reuters) -A late goal by forward Noah Okafor earned AC Milan a 1-0 win at Lazio in Serie A on Friday after a chaotic end to the game in which the hosts were reduced to eight men in stoppage time.

Milan, who ended their winless run of three games across all competitions, sit third in the league standings on 56 points.

They are one point adrift of second-placed Juventus who travel to Napoli on Sunday and 13 behind leaders Inter Milan, who host Genoa on Monday.

"In the last away matches we had conceded too many goals, being punished at the slightest chance," coach Stefano Pioli told a press conference.

"(But) the group works well, is compact and wants to do well from here to the end."

Milan conceded eight times in their previous three away games, all against teams in the lower half of the table.

Following a first half short on action and chances, Milan continued to dominate possession and substitute Okafor scored in the 88th minute on a rebound from near the penalty spot, after his initial shot was denied by Lazio keeper Ivan Provedel.

Okafor joined team mate Luka Jovic and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez for the most goals scored coming off the bench (four) in the Italian top flight this season.

Rafael Leao thought he broke the deadlock for the visitors earlier in the second half but the goal, which deflected off both Lazio defender Mario Gila and Provedel, was ruled out for offside following a VAR review in the 76th minute.

Lazio were down to 10 men just before the hour mark when defender Luca Pellegrini received a second booking for trying to unlawfully stop Christian Pulisic after losing the ball.

The hosts ended the match with eight players after defender Adam Marusic was also sent off following a challenge on Leao in stoppage time and midfielder Matteo Guendouzi saw a straight red for retaliating after being pulled by Pulisic.

Lazio are the first Serie A side to receive three red cards in a single game since Palermo did against Bologna in 2012.

Milan next face Empoli on March 10 after hosting Slavia Prague in their Europa League last-16 first leg on Thursday.

Lazio, who remained ninth in the league standings on 40 points having lost three out of their last four league games, take on Udinese on March 11.

Maurizio Sarri's side travel to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday with hopes of holding on to their 1-0 lead from the first leg.

(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in GdanskEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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