SALERNO (REUTERS) - Serie A leaders AC Milan averted a shock defeat to basement club Salernitana on Saturday (Feb 19), after Ante Rebic rescued a 2-2 draw with a late strike from long range.
Milan, who are chasing a first title in 11 years, went ahead in the fifth minute with a strike from Brazilian attacking midfielder Junior Messias after he had been released by fullback Theo Hernandez.
Salernitana pulled level in the 29th minute through an overhead kick from striker Federico Bonazzoli and then took a surprise lead in the 72nd minute with a diving header from Bosnian forward Milan Djuric.
The home side's euphoria did not last long, however, as Croatian midfielder Rebic let fly with a low shot from outside the box which skidded into the far bottom corner of the net in the 77th minute.
The draw meant Milan failed to extend their lead at the top of the table and they sit on 56 points after 26 matches, two ahead of neighbours and champions Inter Milan, who have two games in hand and can regain top spot when they host Sassuolo on Sunday.
Salernitana stayed rooted to the foot of the table, but reduced the gap to 17th-place Cagliari to seven points.
"The fact we fought back for a draw is positive but we came here for a win. We are disappointed because we didn't play our usual football," said Milan coach Stefano Pioli.
"We did not play well technically and made some bad choices with the ball. Our passing was sloppy and we were too hurried and paid a big price for the errors we made, which were naive."
Earlier on Saturday, AS Roma fought their way back from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Verona but coach Jose Mourinho was sent off in added time for gesturing towards the referee.
Roma, who had a depleted squad due to injuries and a Covid-19 outbreak, trailed early on to a tap-in from Antonin Barak in the fifth minute and an Adrien Tameze strike in the 20th minute.
The hosts pulled themselves back into contention thanks to two teenage substitutes, Cristian Volpato, 18, getting their first goal back in the 65th minute before 19-year-old Edoardo Bove levelled in the 84th minute.
The revival did not manage to satisfy Mourinho, however, and the Portuguese was sent off right before the final whistle for kicking a ball away in frustration after pointing at his head while staring at referee Luca Pairetto, appearing to make the sign of a telephone.
Mourinho declined to speak to the media after the game.