Calhanoglu shines as Zlatan-less AC Milan sink Lecce

AC Milan kept alive their hopes of snatching a Europa League qualifying berth after Turkey midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu had a hand in all of their goals in a 4-1 Serie A win at relegation-threatened Lecce on Monday.

The result lifted Milan, who were missing forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a calf injury, two places to seventh on 39 points from 27 games. Sixth-placed Napoli are ahead of them on goal difference. Lecce stayed 18th on 25 points as they failed to climb out of the drop zone.

"We played well against a Lecce side who preferred to wait for us. We created the space to put them in trouble. It was a good result and performance," said Milan coach Stefano Pioli, whose future has been the subject of speculation.

"Ibrahimovic is a fundamental player for us and without him we have to find other solutions."

AC Milan made quick work of Lecce.
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Milan dominated the opening half with some crisp one-touch passing and Giacomo Bonaventura come close in the opening exchanges before Samuel Castillejo fired the visitors ahead in the 26th minute with his first league goal of the season.

The Spanish winger turned in a sharp Calhanoglu cross from the right flank and Milan enjoyed a slice of good fortune 10 minutes later as Lecce centre back Biagio Meccariello had a goal disallowed for marginal offside.

The home side levelled with a Marco Mancosu penalty in the 54th minute after halftime substitute Khouma Boubacar was fouled but their joy was short-lived as Milan hit back with two goals inside three minutes.

Bonaventura restored Milan's lead barely 40 seconds later when he stabbed in a close-range rebound after Lecce keeper Gabriel parried Calhanoglu's shot from 20 metres.

Croatia Ante Rebic made it 3-1 after he raced clear from inside his own half as he latched on to a clever Calhanoglu pass and beat Gabriel with a clinical finish from 16 metres with his weaker right foot.

Second half substitute Rafael Leao added the fourth in the 72nd minute with a diving close-range header after Calhanoglu released Andrea Conti and the right back delivered an inch-perfect cross from his flank.