Milan send Verona into relegation playoff with Spezia


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Hellas Verona will face Spezia in a Serie A relegation playoff after losing 3-1 at fourth-placed AC Milan on Sunday as Rafael Leao's double and an Olivier Giroud penalty secured the points.

Verona and Spezia, who lost 2-1 at AS Roma, finished the season with 31 points and now face a playoff, which has been introduced this season, to decide who stays up.

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"We played a good game but in the end, we could not stop Leao. We must restart and prepare for a fundamental game," Verona manager Marco Zaffaroni said.

"There will be emotional aspects to take into account but we want to go all the way. Where will the game be played? We still haven't talked about it. We were only focused on this game. Now, we are ready for all the updates."

Milan secured qualification for a third straight Champions League campaign but failed to win a trophy after being knocked out in the semifinals of Europe's elite competition and Coppa Italia last 16 after losing the Italian Supercup to Inter Milan.

Stefano Pioli fielded the same side that won 1-0 against Juventus on May 28. Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both unavailable due to injury, with the 41-year-old Swede watching on before announcing his retirement from football.

AC Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Hellas Verona in Serie A.
AC Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Hellas Verona in Serie A.
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Giroud put the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time, after Cyril Ngonge brought down Brahim Diaz, before the visitors equalised in the 72nd through Davide Faraoni.

Leao capped off the season in style after two goals in quick succession starting with a long-range strike in the 85th minute before wrapping up the win two minutes into stoppage time.

Alexis Saelemaekers came close to scoring a fourth for Milan near the end, but his shot curled just over the bar.

After the match, as Milan started preparations to celebrate with Ibrahimovic, the Verona players gathered to follow Spezia's match which had an astonishing 14 minutes of stoppage time.