Milan (AFP) – AC Milan host Fiorentina on Sunday knowing the fate of the Serie A crown is in their hands after a yell from reserve keeper Ionut Radu left Inter Milan’s title defense hanging on a thread.
Last champions in 2011, Milan became Scudetto favorites without even kicking a ball on Wednesday after Inter’s stunning 2-1 defeat at Bologna left the champions two points behind their local rivals.
Few could believe their eyes when Radu, on his first Serie A start to the season in place of injured Samir Handanovic, misjudged a throw-in under pressure from Nicola Sansone to the point that the Italy international was able to enter the winner of inches.
The blunder was so huge that Gazzetta Dello Sport compared it to a mistake by Giuliano Sarti in 1967 which handed that year’s title to Juve.
Radu left the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara pitch in tears as his teammates consoled him and Denzel Dumfries tried to stop the pitchside TV cameras from filming the shaken keeper.
Meanwhile, audible cheers went up around Milan‘s ‘Rosssonero’ half as the momentum clearly turned in their side’s favour.
Three wins and a draw in their last four matches will guarantee the title thanks to Olivier Giroud’s brace in the February derby which gave Milan the best head-to-head record if both teams end on the same points.
It’s a stark turnaround for Inter who last weekend, after overtaking in-form Roma, watched every inch of the champions-elect until Sandro Tonali snatched a stoppage-time winner from the Lazio who kept Milan two ahead.
Now Simone Inzaghi’s side travel to Udinese who are flying in the run-in and hammered Fiorentina 4-0 shortly before Radu made perhaps the biggest blunder of the campaign.
Another mistake could finally bring a turning point to a hugely entertaining title race that has been swinging all season.
Another derby could be crucial for the result at the other end of the table, as Sampdoria host Genoa on Saturday with the survival of Serie A at stake.
Samps have been terrible lately and were dragged back into the relegation fight after three defeats and a draw that left them five points clear of their local rivals in the drop zone.
Salernitana are closing in on the safety, who face Atalanta on Monday on a three-game winning streak that put them level with Genoa and three points behind Cagliari.
The Sards sit just outside the bottom three and kick off the weekend’s fixtures with visiting Verona.
Player to watch: Gerard Deulofeu
Udinese have been crashing in goal in recent weeks and in Gerard Deulofeu they have one of the league’s in-form players ahead of their clash with Inter.
The Spaniard has scored 12 times from the wing this season and has been key to a side that since early April have found the net 17 times in six appearances.
10 – The number of points that will guarantee Milan their first league title in 11 years.
2 – After Napoli collapsed at Empoli last week, a four-way title race was reduced to two teams.
Calendar (GMT times)
Cagliari against Verona, Napoli against Sassuolo (both in 1300), Sampdoria against Genoa (1600), Spezia against Lazio (1845)
Juventus v Venezia (1030), Empoli v Torino, AC Milan v Fiorentina (both 1300), Udinese v Inter (1600), Roma v Bologna (1845)
Atalanta against Salerno (1845)