Giroud scores 2 late goals as AC Milan beats rival Inter 2-1

AC Milan's Olivier Giroud, front, celebrates with AC Milan's Alessio Romagnoli after scoring his side's opening goal during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and AC Milan at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

MILAN (AP) — Olivier Giroud again showed why he can never be written off, scoring two late goals as AC Milan rallied to beat city rival Inter Milan 2-1 on Saturday and re-ignite the Serie A title race.

Milan moved one point behind defending champion and leader Inter, which has played one game less. Napoli can move level on points with Milan if it wins at Venezia on Sunday.

Midfielder Ivan Perisic put Inter ahead when he volleyed in from just inside the penalty area in the 39th following a corner.

Simone Inzaghi’s side looked in comfortable control until Giroud — France’s second all-time leading scorer with 46 goals — equalized in the 75th.

Four minutes later, Giroud produced a superb flick with his right foot to spin around his marker inside the area, before curling the ball under the body of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic with his left.

The 35-year-old Giroud exulted in front of Milan’s fans and showed them why he is an able replacement for injured idol Zlatan Ibrahimovic, even though he has never been as skillful or popular.

But he has other qualities, among them never giving up despite constant criticism of his playing style over the years.

He jumped into the arms of coach Stefano Pioli after the final whistle, his name written alongside other match-winners at the Derby della Madonnina.

First, Giroud slid to equalize from close range following a counter-attack. It came about when substitute Alexis Sanchez lost possession in midfield — after being emphatically shoulder-barged off the ball by his former Arsenal teammate Giroud.

Milan finished with 10 players after left back Theo Hernandez was sent off in the fifth minute of injury time.

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi will have regrets.

His side could have been well ahead, but Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan showed just why he is pushing to become France’s No. 1 at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Maignan made a fine reflex save to keep out Marcelo Brozovic’s deflected 20-meter shot, then another stop from Denzel Dumfries’ low strike.

After Handanovic launched himself to the left to keep out Sandro Tonali’s thunderous strike from 25 meters out in the 35th, Maignan thwarted Lautaro Martinez at the other end.

He was beaten when Perisic put the ball beyond his reach from former Milan player Hakan Calhanoglu’s ensuing corner.

But after Calhanoglu latched onto Brozovic’s superb pass in first-half injury time, as Inter again attacked downed the left flank, Maignan showed brilliant judgment to rush off his line and make a sliding tackle.

Also, Lazio won 3-0 at Fiorentina to move to sixth, above city rival Roma on goal difference.