AC Milan laid down a marker in the race for the Champions League places as they beat Lazio 2-0 at San Siro on Saturday afternoon.
Both goals came in the first half for Milan as Ismael Bennacer finished past Provedel after a Lazio giveaway deep in their own half and Theo Hernandez then fired in via a deflected shot after a run from virtually the edge of his own box.
The result moves Milan into fourth place for the time being with Inter and Roma schedule to play at 18:00 CEST, and gives the team a real confidence boost in view of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Stefano Pioli rotated in midweek against Cremonese and chose to go with his strongest line-up as Simon Kjaer, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez, Rade Krunic, Sandro Tonali, Junior Messias, Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud all started.
The first big chance of the game came in the eighth minute and it was no surprise that it was a solo run from Leao that created it. Giroud laid the ball into his path and he ran into space down the left side, surging into the box but with his touch just letting himself down and Provedel claiming it.
There was a real moment of worry in the 11th minute when Leao pulled up holding his groin, and Pioli was forced into a change as Alexis Saelemaekers came on.
A few minutes later Milan had a big opportunity to take the lead as Theo Hernandez went on a run down the left side and pulled the ball back to Giroud, whose first time effort sailed over the bar from around the penalty spot.
In the 18th minute, Milan took the lead and it was rather a gift from Lazio. Marcos Antonio gave the ball away as they tried to play out from the back, and Giroud was able to square it to Bennacer who hit his effort into the ground but over the goalkeeper.
Right on the half hour mark, Milan doubled their advantage and it was all the making of Theo Hernandez. He took the ball from Maignan’s roll-out virtually on the edge of his own box and ran with it past several players before sending a deflected shot past Provedel.
Lazio did not offer much in the opening 45 minutes and were restricted mainly to half-chances, with Immobile glancing a header well wide five minutes before the break after a cross from Hysaj.
A double change came at the break for Milan as the centre-back pairing were replaced. Kjaer and Calabria came off with Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu coming on.
The second half started pretty much how the first half had, with Milan pressing high up the pitch and dominating the possession against a Lazio side that at times just did not look up for the fight.
There was a very strange moment on the hour mark as Casale slid in for a challenge with Theo Hernandez and took him out at shin height, but in the process the Frenchman ended up kicking him in the face with his trailing leg.
Midway through the second half Pioli made the decision to withdraw Giroud in view of Wednesday’s game against Inter, with Ante Rebic taking his place.
The second half was played without much in the way of chances or free-flowing attacking play as both teams seemed to accept that the outcome of the game had been determined in the first half.
Pioli made his final change with 10 minutes left on the clock as Theo Hernandez was withdrawn and Fode Ballo-Toure replaced him.
Milan thought that they might have had a third goal when Rebic finished calmly, however he was rightly flagged offside and it was one of those goals that always gave the impression of not being legitimate.
Lazio had a couple of half-chances as the clock ticked past 89 minutes and both fell to Luis Alberto. The first saw him open up for a shot on the edge of the box that was blocked wide, and he headed over from the resulting corner.
The final big chance of the game came when Pedro and Alberto combined down the left side with the latter dragging a shot into the path of Basic, who saw his effort cut out by Tomori.