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AC Milan fight back from 3-0 down to stun Lecce

AC Milan fight back from 3-0 down to stun Lecce

Substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a hat-trick within 18 minutes after half-time.

Milan: Substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng scored a hat-trick within 18 minutes of coming after half-time, as a stunning second-half comeback for AC Milan saw the Serie A champions recover from three goals down to beat Lecce 4-3 at Stadio Via del Mare on Sunday.

An 83rd-minute header from Mario Yepes completed the fightback for the defending champions, who had been three goals adrift after 37 minutes following a shambolic first-half display.

Giullermo Giacomazzi headed Lecce in front in the fourth minute, while former Milan player Massimo Oddo converted a penalty kick and Carlos Grossmuller added a third before half-time.

But Boateng came off the bench for Robinho and grabbed one back for Milan four minutes into the second half.

The Ghana international completed his hat-trick within 14 minutes and Colombian defender Yepes grabbed the winner with seven minutes left.

The victory lifted the Rossoneri into the top half of the Italian league. Milan - who started the weekend in 13th place - moved to 11 points, while Lecce slumped to their fourth straight home defeat this season and remained on four points and second from bottom.

Players wore black armbands and observed a minute's silence at the start as a tribute to Italian rider Marco Simoncelli, who died on Sunday after a crash at the Malaysian MotoGP motorcycle race.

The Rossoneri's last win at the southern venue came on January 5, 2002, and the first-half gave little indication that they would shatter the nine-year away hoodoo.

Perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that history was on their side, the hosts surged forward relentlessly in the opening stages in search of an early goal.

And their efforts were rewarded after just four minutes when Grossmuller's inswinging free-kick from wide on the left was nodded into the net by Giacomazzi, who had nipped in ahead of the unaware and unalert Yepes.

While it would have been easy for Lecce to try and shut up shop and protect what they had, they had other ideas and continued their relentless pursuit of goals.

A well-deserved second arrived on the half-hour mark when Milan loanee Oddo fired a fantastic spot-kick into Christian Abbiati's top right-hand corner to further punish the goalkeeper after he had given away the penalty with a clumsy foul on Daniele Corvia.

For their part, Milan had a few half-chances, with Antonio Nocerino heading over from close range before drawing a fine save from Massimiliano Benassi with a dipping volley from the edge of the box in the 35th minute.

However, there was never any doubt as to who the more threatening side were. And that feeling was underlined in the 37th minute when Grossmuller punished some woeful defending by Luca Antonini by latching onto his short backpass and prodding the ball beyond the advancing Abbiati to give his side an unexpected three-goal half-time lead.

Massimiliano Allegri made a double change at the break, introducing Alberto Aquilani and Boateng in place of Massimo Ambrosini and Robinho, to try and swing the game back in his favour, but even he would have had no idea how effective one change in particular would be.

Boateng made an instant impact, giving his side hope by rifling a stunning half-volley beyond Benassi to make it 3-1 in the 49th minute.

Then, six minutes later, the Ghanaian really put the cat amongst the pigeons when he lashed Antonio Cassano's neat lay-off high into the net from the edge of the box.

Amazingly, the comeback, and Boateng's hat-trick was completed as early as the 63rd minute - just 14 minutes after his first goal. The midfielder was first on the scene after an Ignazio Abate shot was blocked inside the box, and proceeded to force a side-footed effort at goal from an acute angle. Somehow, the ball managed to squirm past Benassi and over the line to restore parity.

After the scores were levelled, Milan seemed to drop the tempo and look for a winner in a more cautious manner. But it seemed inevitable that it would come, and it did through the unlikeliest of sources in the 76th minute.

Yepes, who was at fault for the first goal, redeemed himself by popping up at the far post to nod Cassano's intelligent lofted pass into the net and spark scenes of wild celebration amongst the men in white.