Rome: A hat-trick from Sassuolo striker Domenico Berardi in a 3-2 home win over AC Milan on Sunday has ended the seven-time European champions' hopes of playing in Europe next season.
Filippo Inzaghi's visitors travelled to the Mapei Stadium hoping for the win that would maintain their chances of claiming one of three Europa places on offer. But Berardi, whose first goal was awarded despite Milan protests having appeared not to fully cross the line, gave the hosts a 2-0 lead by 31 minutes. Despite Giacomo Bonaventura and Alex bringing Milan on level terms by the 51st minute, Berardi completed his hat-trick 13 minutes from time to seal the points.
Milan remain in 10th place, 37 points behind Juventus after the champions' 2-1 win at Inter Milan on Saturday, and eight points behind sixth-placed Sampdoria. Because Juventus and Lazio will contend the Italian Cup final on Wednesday and neither are in contention for the Europa League, the competition's qualifying place normally given to the Cup winner will now go to the team that finishes sixth this season.
With two games remaining, Milan now have no chance of catching Sampdoria although Inter and Genoa remain hot on the heels of Sinisa Mihajlovic's side. Inzaghi's future with the club remains uncertain, but after complaining Sassuolo's opener "was not valid", the former Rossoneri striker launched a plea for a stay of execution. "I have a contract with Milan and feel honoured to be here," he said.
"Sassuolo wanted me when I was Milan's youth coach, but I am too close to Milan and I hope to stay because I still have so much to offer." Sassuolo's 10th win of the campaign, meanwhile, moved Eusebio Di Francesco's men up to 12th place only three points behind Milan. Berardi's feat, the striker taking his tally for the season to 14, has shed light on his future at the club.
He admitted he could be tempted to accept offers to move elsewhere. "I've worked really hard in what has been an important season, but I will see in June what I plan to do as regards my future," he told Sky Sport. Juventus secured their fourth consecutive title two weeks ago and remain on course for a treble of trophies as they contend the Champions League final against Barcelona in Berlin on June 6.
Roma host Udinese in Sunday's late game looking to restore their one-point lead on Lazio as the city rivals battle for the second automatic Champions League qualifying spot. Napoli, in fourth at four points behind Roma, host already-relegated Cesena on Monday when fifth-placed Fiorentina host Parma, who also failed to beat the drop, looking to reinforce their grip on their Europa League place.
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