'Sound of silence' for troubled Milan as Juve inch towards Champions League

Stefano Pioli is set to be dismissed as <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:AC Milan;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">AC Milan</a> coach in the summer (Marco BERTORELLO)
Stefano Pioli is set to be dismissed as AC Milan coach in the summer (Marco BERTORELLO)

AC Milan were given the silent treatment by thousands of frustrated supporters during Sunday's thrilling 3-3 home draw with Genoa as their disappointing Serie A season crawls to its conclusion.

Fans unfurled banners demanding improvements to the team, while the hardcore ultras stayed silent in protest throughout a match which ended all square after Malick Thiaw's 87th-minute own goal handed mid-table Genoa a point.

The entire Curva Sud section of the San Siro, which is where the ultras stand and holds thousands of supporters, missed Thiaw's unfortunate error as it emptied shortly after Olivier Giroud fired Milan 3-2 ahead in the 75th minute.

Left behind was a banner which simply read "the sound of silence".

The protest dampened the atmosphere for what was effectively a dead rubber, with second-placed Milan already guaranteed Champions League football and promoted Genoa safe from relegation.

Fan discontent stems from the 18 points which separate Milan from champions and local rivals Inter Milan, who secured their 20th league title by winning their local derby a fortnight ago.

That, and being dumped out of the Europa League by fellow Italians Roma, angered supporters and means Stefano Pioli, the man who guided Milan to the 2022 Serie A title, will be dismissed at the end of the season after nearly five years at the helm.

"The fans chose that form of protest, you have to respect it," said Pioli to DAZN.

"Our fans have always been of huge value over these years, they'll have their reasons for the way they protested."

Pioli's Genoa counterpart Alberto Gilardino is secure in his position after guiding his team to a happy return to the top flight.

Gilardino, who won the 2006 World Cup with Italy as a player, said on Saturday that he had come to a verbal agreement with Genoa to extend his contract beyond the end of this season.

Italy's oldest football club and nine-time Italian champions, Genoa are 12th in Serie A and have performed above expectations this season.

"I want to continue at a club that has given me the chance to coach and do a good job," said Gilardino to DAZN.

- 'Football's a crazy sport' -

Below Milan, the battle for Champions League football continued as third-placed Juventus drew 1-1 in a hugely entertaining clash with Roma in which each team created a host of chances and struck the woodwork.

Juve stay five points behind Milan and inched towards a spot in Europe's top club competition after Gleison Bremer's 31st-minute header levelled an early opener from Romelu Lukaku.

Despite only winning twice in 14 league matches, Massimiliano Allegri's side are nine points ahead of sixth-placed Atalanta, who are at relegated Salernitana on Monday and also have another game in hand.

"Football is a crazy sport because one moment things go your way and the other everything goes against you," said Allegri.

"We could have done better this season but it wasn't to be."

Atalanta's extra match leaves Roma at risk of missing out as a win at Salernitana would move Gian Piero Gasperini's side above Roma into fifth on goal difference.

Roma travel to Atalanta next weekend for a crunch clash after having to rue a late missed Tammy Abraham chance just as they did in Thursday's defeat to Bayer Leverkusen which left their hopes of reaching the Europa League final hanging by a thread.

"A draw doesn't do us any good but I can only be proud of my team, of how they play and how they work together," said Roma coach Daniele De Rossi.

"A bit more luck and we would have won it."

Verona boosted their hopes of safety with a 2-1 home win over Fiorentina which moved them five points clear of the relegation zone.

Udinese, who sit just inside the bottom three, can escape the drop zone if they beat Napoli on Monday.