When US Lecce ended the first half of their home game against AC Milan three goals to the good, the majority of Italian football fans were already talking about the biggest upset of the weekend.
They had clearly not bargained on the impact of half-time substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng, whose rapid hat-trick clawed his side back into the match before Mario Yepes completed the turnaround with seven minutes left. Four days after scoring an astonishing goal in the UEFA Champions League home win over FC BATE Borisov – a powerful strike from 25 metres that flew in off the bar – the Ghanaian international had surpassed himself, finding the net three times in 14 minutes to help the Rossoneri win a game that had seemed irredeemably lost.
After the final whistle, Boateng expressed his joy at both the result and his own performance. "This is a crucial win," the attacking midfielder said. "Our comeback was incredible. Also, for me
it is a huge satisfaction and I am taking the match ball home as a trophy. I started on the bench because of a knee problem, but the coach decided to give me a chance."
Before Sunday's trip to Lecce, Boateng had never scored more than one goal in a game in his career, yet the 24-year-old repaid Massimiliano Allegri's trust with a match-winning display. "Luckily, I played pretty well," the former Hertha BSC Berlin, Tottenham Hotspur FC and Portsmouth FC player explained. "I want to dedicate the hat-trick to my son. This is not an answer to any criticism that I've received; there's no need for that. I just want to do my best to show my real strength."
The result also exorcised a few demons for Milan, a club where the word "comeback" will perhaps forever conjure memories of the 2005 UEFA Champions League final loss to Liverpool FC, when they squandered a three-goal advantage before succumbing on penalties. However, there have also been stout Rossoneri fightbacks down the years, including a famous derby victory in 2003/04 when they trailed FC Internazionale Milano 2-0 at the break before Jon Dahl Tomasson, Kaká and Clarence Seedorf turned things around.
Indeed, boss Allegri knows from experience that it is never good to start celebrating too early against Milan. On 13 September 1992, the then midfielder registered in the first minute for a Pescara Calcio side that raced into a 4-1 lead against the team he now coaches – only for a glorious Marco van Basten hat-trick to help the visitors prevail 5-4. Almost 20 years on from that disappointment, Allegri was delighted to be on the winning side this time around.
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