Okafor strikes late as AC Milan beat livid eight-man Lazio

A dreary night of football in Rome ends with a last gasp AC Milan victory through a Noah Okafor goal, as the game finishes in controversy and with Lazio ending the match with eight men.

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Noah Okafor celebrates scoring the winner against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico (@acmilan).

STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): It wasn’t a night of great beauty in the Eternal City, but Noah Okafor’s late strike proved enough to pinch a 1-0 victory for AC Milan after a heated game that saw Lazio astonishingly end with eight men.

Luca Pellegrini was the first to walk, earning a second yellow for pulling down Christian Pulisic, but the Biancocelesti defender and his team-mates were infuriated by the decision as he was trying to stop play for injured colleague Taty Castellanos, who had taken a head knock.

Rafael Leao thought he had broken the deadlock, only for his goal to be chalked off for offside, while at the other end Ciro Immobile missed from four yards in Lazio’s biggest chance.

AC Milan attacker Noah Okafor looks out across the away support after scoring the winner against Lazio (@acmilan).

When the goal arrived, it was as scrappy as the game had been as the Rossoneri were thwarted once by Ivan Provedel, again by Mario Gila and then at the third time of asking forced in a finish – but only after Provedel got a glove to it to almost keep it out.

With the crowd already infuriated by the officiating, things descended into farce in stoppage time as Adam Marusic and Matteo Guendouzi were shown straight red cards.

The full-time whistle sparked a predictable shoving match between the two sets of players and coaching staff, but once the dust settles it will be the Milanisti smiling at reducing the gap to second-placed Juventus to just one point.

Some positive signs for Lazio ahead of Champions League clash with Bayern Munich

For Lazio, a disastrous run of three defeats in the last four games leaves them down in ninth and with a return to the Champions League – where they face Bayern Munich in the second-leg of their Last 16 tie next week – looking ever more unlikely.

After soaking up an initial period of Milan pressure, Lazio grew into the game and soon carved out what proved to be the best chance of the first half.

A Luis Alberto corner was nodded on by Felipe Anderson into the path of the onrushing Matias Vecino, but the midfielder could only turn an instinctive finish wide of the far post from six yards.

It proved the starting gun to a good spell from the hosts, who almost profited from a defensive mix-up when Alessandro Florenzi’s backpass cannoned off the outrushing Mike Maignan, who then tripped Castellanos after the ball had gone, leading to furious cries for a penalty from the home crowd but no interest from the referee.

Davide Calabria and Olivier Giroud celebrate with AC Milan goalscorer Noah Okafor against Lazio (@acmilan).

AC Milan’s second-half fight back

Maignan’s palms were warmed a couple of times by Castellanos and Alberto efforts from range, but the Rossoneri finished the first half the brighter as Pulisic stung the palms of Provedel and Olivier Giroud steered a header over.

After the break, things picked up where they had left off with the ball moving swiftly from end to end but neither side showing any sign of a clinical edge once in the final third as Leao and Giroud fired harmlessly over from promising oppositions.

A game that had long felt like it was living on an emotional knife-edge then exploded when Pellegrini was shown a second yellow for hauling down Pulisic by his shoulders just minutes after picking up his first booking.

The Lazio full-back was furious as he was trying to stop play after his team-mate Castellanos went down moments earlier and a melee broke out between the two sets of players as tempers flared, but the decision stood and Maurizio Sarri’s men faced a final half-hour with a man down.

Frantic finish in the capital

In the space of one hectic minute, Provedel produced a fine save to deny Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Immobile steered a finish wide from point-blank range with just Maignan to beat.

A minute later, Leao found the back of the net via a deflection and leaped over the advertising boards to celebrate with the travelling support, only for the goal to soon be called offside.

Okafor eventually forced home the deciding strike with two minutes left, before things unravelled entirely in stoppage time with Marusic and Guendouzi’s red cards leaving Lazio down to eight.