Piatek keeps AC Milan’s Champions League bid on track

MILAN (AFP) – Trigger happy Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek continued his goal-scoring spree in a 3-0 win for his new club AC Milan over lowly Empoli on Friday night to keep their Champions League ambitions firmly on track.

The 23-year-old joined Milan from league rivals Genoa last month and has now scored seven goals in six matches, including a double in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.

Lucas Paqueta had a goal disallowed and Samu Castillejo forced two saves in the first half at the San Siro before Piatek broke through after 49 minutes.

Franck Kessie added a second two minutes later with Spaniard Samuel Castillejo, who played a role in the first two goals, heading in the third on 67 minutes.

AC Milan consolidated fourth position in Serie A and pulled within a point of city rivals Inter Milan, in third, who travel to Fiorentina tonight.

AC Milan players celebrate after winning the Serie A match against Empoli at the San Siro stadium. – AP

“After a few years, Milan sees the light again,” said coach Gennaro Gattuso.

The seven-time European champions last competed in the Champions League in the 2013-2014 season.

“I can’t promise anything, I can only say that this is a young team with very interesting players, that gives me hope.

“We have to think match after match, without looking at the standings.

“These three points were not taken for granted,” he added of the win over 17th-placed Empoli.

Gattuso’s side claimed a third consecutive league win for the first time this season, scoring three goals in each game, to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games.

“People ask about pressure, but the only pressure is wearing the Milan jersey in this stadium,” said former defensive midfielder Gattuso who won two Champions League titles with the club.

“It’s true it has been years that we haven’t played for something important, but we are here and want to go all the way.”

Piatek has now scored 18 goals from 25 games this season, one fewer than Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It is thanks to him, but also to the whole team that puts him in a position,” said Gattuso.

Champions Juventus, who have a 13-point lead at the top of the table, are looking for a boost at struggling Bologna after their Champions League last 16, first leg defeat at Atletico Madrid during the week.