Milan secure Lazio stalemate in Coppa Italia semi-final, first leg

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain’s French midfielder Christopher Nkunku (R) kicks the ball as Dijon’s Icelandic goalkeeper Runar Runarsson (L) leaps during the French Cup quarter-final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Dijon (DFCO) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on Tuesday. – AFP

ROME: AC Milan held Lazio to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final in Rome on Tuesday as the home side wasted numerous chances. The 2013 winners had plenty of opportunities to claim an advantage, including Ciro Immobile’s delicate lob in the second half, but Gennaro Gattuso’s side will return to the San Siro the happier of the teams.

“The regret is that we didn’t manage to score,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi told Rai Sport. “We were only missing a goal. But the lads put in a great performance, were always very focused against Milan, who are the form team in Serie A right now.”
After a poor opening quarter of an hour as both teams failed to assert any control, the ball broke to Lucas Paqueta in the home side’s box. Tiemoue Bakayoko’s deflected shot fell to Paqueta but his shot was weak in threatening Thomas Strakosha.
The capital city side dominated the remainder of the first half with plenty of chances which they should have taken. Patric, Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic all saw tame efforts from inside the box glance past Gianluigi Donnarumma’s right-hand post.

The hosts had a penalty shout turned down just after the hour mark. Immobile was pushed to the ground by Alessio Romagnoli as he cushioned the ball with a header, but he was judged to be offside by the assistant referee.

Serbian Milinkovic-Savic finally had a shot on target on 66 minutes as his deflected effort forced Donnarumma to dive to his left. The best chance of the final 45 fell to Immobile with 10 minutes to play.

He found himself in space one-on-one against youngster Donnarumma, but his audacious attempted chip hit the post and rolled out for a goal kick. He was immediately substituted for Felipe Caicedo by Inzaghi, whose first touch was to earn a wasted corner.

The visitors had a chance to secure an away-goal advantage with three minutes to go as Fabio Borini’s impressive overhead-kick cross found Krzysztof Piatek, but his header sailed over the bar. The second leg takes place on April 24, but Lazio’s attentions will be fixed on a Rome derby on Saturday while Milan welcome Sassuolo in Serie A this weekend.

Meanwhile in Paris, Paris Saint-Germain continued their bid for a fifth straight French Cup title as Angel Di Maria scored twice in a comfortable 3-0 quarter-final win over Dijon at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday.

Di Maria’s eighth-minute lob put the holders ahead, before adding his second before the half-hour mark, with Thomas Meunier sweeping in a late third. Thomas Tuchel’s men remain on course for a historic treble, as they also lead Ligue 1 by 17 points with a game in hand and will take a 2-0 advantage over Manchester United into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next week.

Head coach Tuchel, with Neymar and Edinson Cavani still out injured ahead of the Man United game, decided to leave Kylian Mbappe on the bench against a Dijon side languishing in the Ligue 1 relegation zone.

The German singled out the first-half performance of January signing Leandro Paredes for special praise. “(Paredes) played a very good first half, like the rest of the team,” Tuchel said. “He’s a guy who can make very precise passes. It was his role to set the pace and speed up the passing game.”

The hosts got off to a quick start, with former Stoke City forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting denied only his second goal for the club by Dijon goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson.

But PSG did not have to wait long to break the deadlock, as Julian Draxler found Di Maria in space, with the Argentinian making the most of poor positioning by Runarsson to loft the ball into the far corner for his 12th goal of the season.

The former Real Madrid winger made it two in the 28th minute, tapping into an empty net after seeing his attempted square pass to Choupo-Moting cut out.
Dijon came agonisingly close to pulling a goal back shortly afterwards, as Julio Tavares rounded home goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before his effort from the tightest of angles span out off the inside of the far post.

PSG continued to dominate in the second half with Draxler and Di Maria both going close, but it was full-back Meunier who slotted in Choupo-Moting’s cutback to extend the lead with 13 minutes remaining. – AFP