Perisic hat-trick sends Inter top of Serie A
03 Dec 2017 - 21:10
Milan: Ivan Perisic fired unbeaten Inter Milan top of Serie A on Sunday with a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Chievo, after Gennaro Gattuso's AC Milan reign began with goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli's header giving Benevento their maiden Serie A point.
Croatian Perisic opened the San Siro goal blitz after 23 minutes and added two more in the second half, while Inter captain Mauro Icardi made it 16 for the season seven minutes before the break and defender Milan Skriniar found the net on the hour mark.
Luciano Spalletti's Inter are now the league's only unbeaten team after 15 games, after Napoli lost 1-0 at home to champions Juventus on Friday.
Inter are top of Serie A for the first time since January 2016, one point ahead of Napoli and two above Juventus, who are chasing their seventh straight league title and host Inter on Saturday.
"It's not important who scores the goals, only the team counts, we've waited a long time for first place, now we have to stay, we're going to Turin to win against Juve," said Perisic.
"It's not the title match but we want to try to bring home three points like in all the matches," added Spalletti. "But we have shown we have character and players of their level so it will certainly be a great challenge."
Despite the absence of key players Roberto Gagliardini, Matias Vecino and Joao Miranda, Inter proved deadly efficient against an outclassed Chievo.
Icardi moved top of the goalscoring charts but it was Perisic who stole the show on a night where there were double celebrations for Inter fans as AC Milan let points slip against rock-bottom Benevento.
Keeper makes Benevento history
Goalkeeper Brignoli snatched newcomers Benevento's first ever Serie A point deep into stoppage time to spoil Gattuso's debut and spark wild celebrations for the hosts and their fans after a thrilling 2-2 draw.
With the home side a goal down after 90 minutes and pushing ten-man Milan back in search of an equaliser, Brignoli headed home Danilo Cataldi's free-kick five minutes into injury time to end the southern side's record losing run.
Benevento had surpassed Manchester United's 12-game losing start, a record for the top five European leagues established 87 years ago, on November 19, and were stuck on zero points after 14 games coming into the match with Milan.
"Someone from the bench told me to go up, there was nothing to lose, I went to jump and I closed my eyes," said Brignoli.
"It's a very strong, indescribable feeling," continued the 26-year-old, who joined promoted Benevento on loan this season from Juventus.
"I dedicate the goal to all the people who are living a dream that they hoped would be better.
"We have lost so many games undeservedly at the end, even with Juventus, for once after three months of sacrifice by everyone it is nice to be able to celebrate."
Giacomo Bonaventura had opened the scoring for Milan after 38 minutes at the Stadio Vigorito, before George Puscas pulled Benevento level five minutes after the break.
Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic got Milan back in front seven minutes later only for Alessio Romagnoli to be sent off for a second bookable offence, leaving the visitors a man down for the final 15 minutes.
But in the final seconds of the game, as Benevento looked set for their 15th straight defeat, Brignoli jumped highest after a desperate last free-kick to scenes of euphoria among the home crowd.
"I've nothing to hold against the players. They gave everything when down to ten," said Gattuso who took over in midweek after Vincenzo Montella was sacked as the seven-time European champions sit eighth, way below the Champions League ambitions of their new Chinese owners.
Elsewhere, Fiorentina won 3-0 against Sassuolo to move ahead of Milan into seventh with Bologna held 1-1 at home by Cagliari.
In Sunday's late game Lazio travel to Sampdoria looking to close the gap on fourth-placed city rivals Roma.