Empoli 1-3 Milan
Massimo Ambrosini and Kaka both scored in the last five minutes as Milan picked up a crucial 3-1 win over Empoli at the Stadio Castellani.
Empoli came into this game without leading scorer Nicola Pozzi, who was out for the rest of the season. The Milan-owned Lino Marzoratti, and Davide Moro were both suspended, but Felice Piccolo returned from a ban. Luca Saudati was employed as the lone striker.
Milan were without Gennaro Gattuso, who was serving a one-game suspension, as well as the injured Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Serginho and Ronaldo. Alexandre Pato started up-front alongside Alberto Gilardino.
There was a tense start to the game with neither side able to get their passing game going. The first shot of the game came from Ignazio Abate but it was well over. Young starlet Sebastian Giovinco then charged into the penalty area and went down under pressure from Massimo Ambrosini but the referee was not interested.
On 17 minutes Milan finally showed some life as Kaka cut the ball back to Alexandre Pato on the edge of the area, and the teenager forced Davide Bassi into a tip around the post.
This was a sign of things to come, as just 90 seconds later Milan were ahead. Massimo Oddo crossed from the right, and Bassi made a terrible mistake, dropping the ball, and Pato was there to turn the loose ball in from close range.
It could have been two soon after as Kaka cut the ball back for Gilardino, but the striker missed his kick from just yards out..
This proved costly as on 22 minutes Empoli were level. A cross from the left from Luca Antonini missed out both Saudati and Abate, but stand-in captain Antonio Busce was at the back post to fire the ball into the roof of the net.
Empoli Coach Alberto Malesani then said something out of turn, possibly claiming that a penalty should have been given in the build-up to the goal, and was banished from the touchline by the referee.
Gilardino has the ball in the back of the net moments later, following a chipped Gourcuff pass, but it was correctly disallowed for offside.
The Milan defence was all over the place, and Saudati wasted a great three-on-one situation with some selfish play.
On 32 minutes Gilardino spurned an excellent chance to put his side back ahead. Andrea Pirlo chipped a brilliant pass over the defence to put Gila through, but the striker's first touch let him down, and his weak shot was parried away by Bassi.
Empoli then took charge for the remainder of the half, and missed a host of wonderful opportunities. A corner from the left located Francesco Pratali but the centre back somehow fired over the bar from just two yards out.
On 36 minutes Busce left Giuseppe Favalli for dead down the right, crossed to the near post, and Saudati got in front of his man but headed wide.
Saudati’s finishing was costing his side, as he took the ball down excellently inside the area, turned his man, before shooting agonizingly wide of Kalac’s right-hand post.
Milan just couldn’t cope with the outstanding Abate, and the Italian Under-21 international broke from midfield again, and fired over from outside the area.
Pato was the only Milan player showing any spark. He was brought down outside the area, and Kaka attempted a quick potshot but it was easy for Bassi.
Carlo Ancelotti realized that his side were struggling and made two changes at half-time. Daniele Bonera came on for Oddo, while Christian Brocchi replaced the hugely disappointing Gourcuff.
Bonera’s introduction almost paid immediate dividends, as two of his crosses from the right led to both Pato and Gilardino going close with headers.
Empoli then received a big blow as the game's best player up until that point, Abate, was forced off injured, and was replaced by Francesco Marianini.
On 56 minutes the home side were desperately unlucky not to take the lead as Claudio Marchisio let fly with a brilliant swerving drive from 30 yards that crashed off the post with Kalac a statue on his line.
The heavens then opened, which made the conditions on the field very difficult for both teams to pass the ball.
The game entered a spell of few chances or goalmouth action but on 71 minutes Marianini burst forward from midfield and let fly from distance but it was comfortably wide. Down the other end Pato picked up the ball 25 yards out and curled the ball with his left-foot but the teenager didn’t get it right, and it finished high and wide.
Alberto Gilardino was making no impact up-front whatsoever and Ancelotti took a gamble by replacing him with Alberto Paloschi.
The game seemed destined to end as a draw but on 85 minutes Milan regained the lead as Kaka crossed from the left, and Ambrosini displayed his aerial prowess with a brilliant header into the bottom corner.
Empoli poured forward looking for an equalizer, and they were caught out as Milan added a third on 89 minutes. Pato fed Paloschi who cut the ball back to Kaka, and the Brazilian stroked the ball into the bottom corner from just inside the area.
This was a crucial win for Milan, and they will be having a double celebration after Champions League rivals Fiorentina lost 1-0 to Siena this afternoon in the Tuscan derby.
Empoli: Bassi, Raggi (Tosto), Piccolo, Pratali, Antonini, Busce, Abate (Marianini), Budel, Giovinco (Giacomazzi), Marchisio, Saudati
Milan: Kalac, Oddo (Bonera), Maldini, Kaladze, Favalli, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Gourcuff (Brocchi), Kaka, Pato, Gilardino (Paloschi)