Milan missed a chance to gain ground on their rivals and grab a top-four finish in Serie A when Boulaye Dia equalized Olivier Giroud’s opener in a 1-1 draw with Salernitana at the San Siro.
Inter, Lazio and Roma slip-ups gave Milan a chance to strike a vital blow in Monday’s Champions League race and they looked like Giroud headed the first game just before half-time.
However, Salernitana hit back through Dia just after the hour mark before a VAR check denied Milan a penalty when Ismael Bennacer went down easily under a challenge from Domagoj Bradaric.
The result means Milan remain fourth in a tense battle to qualify for the Champions League, just a point ahead of fifth-placed Roma.
While Milan dominated possession from the start, Salernitana kept them calm until the half-hour when Giroud sent a typical overhead kick just over the bar.
Salernitana then squandered two chances at the break, with Grigoris Kastanos’ shot deflected wide after an easy pass from Mike Maignan, before the Milan keeper made a fine final challenge to prevent Dia from rounding him.
The visitors’ resistance was broken just before half-time when Giroud Bennacer’s corner hit the near post to head in the bottom left corner.
Salernitana hit back after the restart as Bradaric led a collapse from Salernitana down the left, his driven cross being turned past Maignan by a stretching slide.
Milan threw at Zlatan Ibrahimovic in search of a winner and saw referee Federico La Penna reverse a decision to give them a penalty, while Guillermo Ochoa denied Divock Origi late with a fine save.
Ochoa was involved again as Milan came tantalizingly close to a winner late on and somehow clawed the ball off the goal-line after a scramble.
What does that mean? Rossoneri is frustrated as the battle for the top four remains tight
Milan had been bolstered by defeats to Inter and Roma, as well as Lazio’s draw against Bologna ahead of Monday’s game, with the champions looking to draw level with second-placed Nerazzurri after a poor start to 2023.
However, Stefano Pioli’s side failed to dislodge Salernitana and never fully impressed at the back, and three points now separate four sides vying for three Champions League spots.
Milan miss out on Tonali as Pioli makes historic selection
After Sandro Tonali was benched at Tottenham after the start of Wednesday’s Champions League draw, Pioli became the first Milan manager to start a Serie A XI without a single Italian player in the era of three points to a win (since 1994 ) named -95 season).
Milan sorely missed the midfielder as Salernitana avoided defeat at the San Siro for the first time since returning to Serie A last season, having lost their previous three visits to either the Rossoneri or Inter by a combined 9-0 score .
Giroud lacks Leao support
Milan seemed set for victory as Giroud scored his third headed goal of 2023 – the most common of any player in Europe’s top five leagues alongside Victor Osimhen and Danilho Doekhi.
However, Giroud lacked the support of his teammates as Milan dropped points. Rafael Leao was once mocked by the home crowd when the Portuguese striker failed to find any of his five shots.
Milan will try to get back to winning ways with Udinese’s Serie A visit on Saturday, while Salernitana host Bologna on the same day.