Luis Muriel’s penalty gave UC Sampdoria a shock 1-0 win over AC Milan 1-0 on Sunday to compound the Rossoneri’s hopes of a return to European football.
Milan, slipping to their third consecutive league defeat, remain in eighth place but are now 14 points behind leaders Juventus, who have two games in hand.
More importantly, Milan sit 10 points behind Roma in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot. The capital side can stretch their lead with a win over Fiorentina on Tuesday.
AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella had raised hopes this season that the seven-time European champions could battle for a Champions League spot.
Milan last graced the competition in 2014 when they lost 5-1 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid in the last 16.
But injuries to midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura, who is out for the season, and defenders Mattia Di Sciglio and Luca Antonelli forced Montella into deploying a largely makeshift back four.
Alessio Romagnoli and Juraj Kucka were hauled back into defence from midfield and for the first half Milan’s defence held firm against incursions by Muriel and Andrea Bertolacci.
Former Everton striker Gerard Deulofeu spurned a great chance to break the deadlock after the restart when he fired on to the far post from seven yards out.
Milan striker Carlos Bacca had desperate penalty appeals waved away when he tumbled after a nudge by Matias Silvestre in the area.
But when Gabriel Paletta hauled down Fabio Quagliarella on the counter, the referee pointed immediately to the spot. Muriel sent goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way to give Samp a 70th minute lead.
Milan should have levelled in the final minutes but late substitute Gianluca Lapadula fired straght at Emiliano Viviano after being sent clear.
It was Sampdoria’s first win over Milan since 2012 but the Genoa side have now claimed to major scalps in succession having edged Roma 3-2 last week when Muriel hit a 73rd minute winner.
Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens both scored hat-tricks as Napoli demolished Bologna 7-1 away on Saturday after a wild first half which featured five goals, two sendings off and a missed penalty.
Bologna’s Mattia Destro saw his spot kick saved by Pepe Reina when Napoli were only two goals ahead while Napoli’s Jose Callejon and Bologna’s Adam Masina were sent off within minutes of each other.
The win lifted Napoli, Serie A’s highest-scoring team with 55 goals, into second place with 48 points, one ahead of AS Roma who host Fiorentina on Tuesday. Leaders Juventus have 51 points and host Inter Milan on Sunday.