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How Good Is Rafael Leão? 22-Year-Old Moves Milan One Step Closer To Serie A Title

The Serie A title rice between Derby della Madonnina rivals Internazionale and AC Milan reached a crescendo this weekend when Inter, trailing 2-0 early, scored four straight against Empoli to win 4-2 and establish a one-point lead over Milan ahead of the Rossoneri's difficult away trip to Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Like Inter, Milan played with fire early and went behind in the 38th minute to an excellently worked Verona goal.  

Much has been written about the longevity of Zlatan Ibrahimović, the clutch play of Olivier Giroud and the success of young Englishman Fikayo Tomori at the heart of Milan's defense, but it was Milan's most consistent performers in attack and midfield — Rafael Leão and Sandro Tonali — who combined twice to keep Milan's Scudetto dream alive.

Just before halftime, Leão surged past his marker, tip-toed down the byline and fired a ball at Tonali to finish on the doorstep.

According to WhoScored, Leão entered Sunday's match leading Serie A with 93 successful dribbles — that's 30 more than second-place Gianluca Caprari. The 22-year-old Portuguese winger has been unplayable off the dribble this season, and his play on Tonali's second goal in the 49th-minute was even more impressive.

Taking possession at the halfway line, Leão burst into Verona's third, squared up one defender and easily breezed by him into the area before drilling a low cross to the back post for the unmarked Tonali.

That's seven assists and 10 goals in 32 Serie A appearances for Leão this campaign while Tonali has five goals and three assists in 34 games. 

Milan could relax in the 86th-minute when substitute Alessandro Florenzi hammered a clean strike inside the far post after exchanging passes with Júnior Messias.

180 minutes separate Milan from its first Serie A title since 2011. If the two teams finish level on points, Milan holds the tiebreaker on head-to-head points.  

Serie A table

Can Milan get it done? It would be an epic collapse if not. 

AC Milan Remaining Fixtures

Milan vs. Atalanta (H) | Sun, May 15

Sassuolo vs. Milan (A) | Sun, May 22

Inter Remaining Fixtures

Cagliari vs. Inter (A) | Sun, May 15

Inter vs. Sampdoria (H) | Sun, May 22

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