MILAN — Rafael Leão scored the fastest goal in Serie A history on Sunday, netting after just six seconds to set league leader AC Milan on the way to a 2-1 win at Sassuolo.
Alexis Saelemaekers scored Milan’s other goal as the Rossoneri remained a point clear of second-place Inter Milan, which beat promoted Spezia 2-1.
“Yes, it’s not like we’re brushing our dolls,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli, when asked if Milan had prepared the goal in training.
“We prepare ourselves, we study our opponents and we try things to put them in difficulty. Today it went well.”
Roma lost 4-1 at Atalanta and missed the chance to move level on points with third-place Juventus. Roma remained fourth, a point above Napoli after Gennaro Gattuso's side lost 2-0 at Lazio.
Milan was missing several top players, with a number of others joining star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the treatment room.
The average age of its starting lineup was again under 23 but it got off to the perfect start when Hakan Çalhanoglu surged forward from kickoff and threaded the ball through to Leão, who fired it into the back of the net.
Statistics supplier Opta said the Portuguese youngster’s goal beat the previous record of eight seconds set by Piacenza’s Paolo Poggi against Fiorentina in 2001.
Milan later tweeted that the 21-year-old Leão's goal was scored after precisely 6.2 seconds.
Leão thought he had turned provider in the ninth minute when he pulled back for Çalhanoglu to turn in but it was ruled out because Saelemaekers was offside in the buildup.
Saelemaekers made up for that in the 26th as he tapped in after being set up by Theo Hernández following a rapid counterattack.
Milan seemed to be heading for a comfortable win before Domenico Berardi’s free kick was deflected in, a minute from time, to set up a nervy finale.
Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku helped Inter to a sixth successive league win.
Inter was the in-form team in the league, while Spezia hadn’t won for more than a month.
However, it took Inter until seven minutes into the second half to break the deadlock with Hakimi firing in a smart pass from Lautaro Martínez.
Lukaku doubled Inter’s lead from the penalty spot after a handball from Sassuolo forward M’Bala Nzola.
Substitute Roberto Piccoli netted a consolation for Spezia in stoppage time with his first Serie A goal.
Substitute Josip Ilicic provided two assists and scored a brilliant solo goal as Atalanta bounced back from Edin Džeko's early opener for Roma.
Ilicic changed the match when he came on for the second half, setting up Duván Zapata for the equalizer and crossing for Robin Gosens' header.
Luis Muriel scored a minute after coming off the bench and Ilicic capped a great night five minutes from time with a goal of his own after beating three defenders.
Atalanta captain Alejandro “Papu” Gómez was again dropped after a falling out with coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
A costly mistake from Bologna goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa helped relegation-threatened Torino to a 1-1 draw at home to Bologna.
Torino climbed into 18th spot, four points from safety. Genoa is level on points after losing 2-0 at Benevento.
Also, Cagliari drew 1-1 against Udinese.
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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press