Milan return to top four with 1-0 win at Monza

Junior Messias celebrates his third Serie A goal of the season in Milan's win over Monza.

Junior Messias scored as AC Milan grabbed a 1-0 win at Monza in a lively Serie A clash on Saturday, sending Stefano Pioli's side back into a Champions League qualification spot.

The win sees Milan climb provisionally to third in the standings on 44 points, level with Inter who host ninth-placed Udinese later on Saturday.

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Milan, who took a step towards their first Champions League quarterfinal for 11 years with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday, have won two consecutive league games for the first time since the season resumed after the World Cup break.

They had collected only two points from the previous five matches.

"When you need to defend you have to do it all together and we've been doing that for a few games now," Pioli told DAZN.

"We could have done even better because Monza played a great second half and it was a very demanding week for us."

The hosts forced Milan goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu into action twice in the opening two minutes, first to deny forward Patrick Ciurria's shot then to keep out a close-range header from Andrea Petagna following a corner.

Forward Rafael Leao hit the post in Milan's first close chance of the evening in the 19th minute.

The 23-year-old had another chance six minutes later, sending in a low shot from the edge of the box, but Monza keeper Michele Di Gregorio made the save.

But Messias put Milan in front just after the half-hour mark, lashing home a ball that Di Gregorio could only touch with the tip of his gloves.

Milan's Theo Hernandez should have doubled their lead when he lobbed the goalkeeper in the 57th minute but his shot went wide.

Monza could have equalised in the 73rd but Ciurria's low shot hit the right post.

The loss brought to an end Monza's longest unbeaten run in Serie A of eight games.

"We lacked the final touch but I can't say anything to my boys. This match will make us grow a lot," Monza coach Raffaele Palladino said.

Monza, who had been without a league loss in the whole of 2023, dropped to 11th in the table on 29 points.