Spezia gave their Serie A survival hopes a huge boost on Saturday by winning 2-0 against AC Milan who flopped ahead of their Champions League semi-final showdown with Inter Milan.
Przemyslaw Wisniewski and Salvatore Esposito struck their first Serie A goals in the final 15 minutes to give Spezia their first win in two months.
Leonardo Semplici’s team are still in the relegation zone but Saturday’s win moves them level on 30 points with Verona, who sit one place above the bottom three and host Torino on Sunday.
Next weekend Spezia travel to Lecce who are just two points above the drop zone in 16th following their 2-2 draw at Lazio on Friday night.
“It’s a goal I’ve dreamed about since I was a child, I used to talk to a good friend of mine who is a big Milan fan and I’d always tell him that I’d score against them,” said Esposito to DAZN.
“These are big points for Spezia… we never lost faith, otherwise you’d never see performances like the one today.”
A largely even match turned in the hosts’ favour in the 75th minute when Wisniewski pounced after Esposito’s corner was headed against the post by Kelvin Amian.
And Esposito sealed a precious three points 10 minutes later with a stunning free-kick which left Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan grasping at air.
Milan will try to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit against Inter on Tuesday but on Saturday’s evidence they will have their work cut out for them.
‘Not good enough’
Defeat also damages Milan’s chances of qualifying for next season’s edition of Europe’s top club competition, as they stay fifth, two points behind Inter who hold the final spot in fourth and host Sassuolo later on Saturday.
Stefano Pioli’s team have won three times in their last 11 league matches and Saturday’s defeat was their 10 of a strange season in which their league title defence was de facto over by February.
“Tonight was not good enough… Tuesday we have another battle. We’ve had a lot of trouble with these kinds of matches and it’s difficult to explain why,” said Simon Kjaer.
“In our line of work you need to mentally separate the matches you play because the match we played on Wednesday and today’s were completely different. We need to remove this one from our minds and get back to work.”
Spezia’s win means Salernitana will have to wait for mathematical safety, although they should stay up after Antonio Candreva shot them to a 1-0 win over Atalanta in the day’s early game.
Under a torrential downpour in southern Italy Candreva won the match for Salernitana in the 93rd minute with a powerful low drive from the edge of the area.
Salernitana are eight points above Spezia with three games remaining in the season, while Atalanta are seventh and five points from the Champions League positions.