MILAN: Fledgling AC Milan coach Cristian Brocchi faced the wrath of fans after a shock 2-1 defeat to basement side Verona left the seven-time European champions in danger of missing out on Europe next season.
Brocchi said he had fulfilled a long-held dream when he was appointed to replace Sinisa Mihajlovic following the popular Serbian’s surprise sacking three weeks ago.
But three games into his tenure, the former Milan midfielder and club favorite is facing crisis after admitting “the lights went out” during a shock 2-1 defeat at Verona.
It was, however, not enough to see Luigi Delneri’s men escape relegation to Serie B after a 1-0 victory for fellow strugglers Carpi, 1-0 over Empoli.
Despite beginning with a 1-0 away win at Sampdoria, Milan were held to a scoreless draw at the San Siro in midweek by relegation-haunted Carpi, who remain fourth from bottom but 10 points ahead of Verona.
At the Bentegodi Stadium on Monday, Milan opened the scoring thanks to French forward Jeremy Menez on 21 minutes.
But if Milan were holding Verona at bay it was thanks to the heroics of teenaged ‘keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and then a penalty from former Milan striker Giampaolo Pazzini levelled the scores in the 72nd minute.
Milan looked to be heading for a share of the spoils until the fifth minute of injury time when Luca Siligardi struck a last-gasp winner for the hosts.
Brocchi said: “It’s only normal that I assume responsibility. We didn’t play well and didn’t play as we’d planned to do.
“The defeat hurts and obviously we have to work hard. Today, the lights went out and that made it difficult for us.
“That’s what we have to work on, making sure the switch doesn’t go off.”
It was only Verona’s fourth win and despite their impending relegation coach Luigi Delneri was defiant.
“Today, we were motivated to beat Milan,” said Delneri. “We were more aggressive but Donnarumma was in great form.”
Defeat, meanwhile, has dented Milan’s Europa League hopes.
Brocchi’s men remain sixth in Serie A but with three games remaining are six points behind fifth-placed Fiorentina and a guaranteed Europa League place.
Milan can qualify directly for Europe’s second tier competition if they beat Juventus in the Italian Cup final on May 21, although that looks a tall order after the Turin giants secured their 32nd title with three games to spare after Napoli’s defeat to Roma on Monday.
If they lose the final, the Europa League spot will go to Serie A’s sixth place finisher but Milan are now just one point ahead of Sassuolo.