Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s game-changing goal in Serie A was the lone highlight of a poor performance for Milan as they were beaten 3-1 at Udinese on Saturday.
In his first start since January 2022 after recovering from a knee injury, Ibrahimovic became the oldest goalscorer in Serie A history, overtaking Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta.
The 41-year-old converted a penalty on his second attempt in first-half added time to equalize Roberto Pereyra’s opener at Stadio Friuli, but Beto’s shot gave Udinese the lead two minutes later.
Kingsley Ehizibue added a third goal in the 70th minute to seal eighth-placed Udinese’s first home win since beating Inter in September.
Udinese took the lead after just nine minutes when Ismael Bennacer’s pass was intercepted after Fikayo Tomori was caught napping – Lazar Samardzic found Pereyra, who rolled the ball into the far post.
However, Milan had a golden chance to equalize just before half-time when Jaka Bijol had the ball in his hands as he tried to dispossess Rafael Leao in the Udinese box.
Marco Silvestri initially made a good save against an Ibrahimovic penalty down the left, but Beto’s attack gave the Swedish striker another chance and he duly scored straight down the middle.
However, Beto quickly made amends, capitalizing on the good work of Isaac Success to restore the hosts’ lead.
Milan’s comeback hopes were further dashed when Ehizibue deflected the ball after Destiny Udogie’s miss.
Rade Krunic swooped in after Milan’s best subsequent chance while their poor form continued.
What does that mean? Milan stumbles again
A fifth defeat in nine league games is a blow to Milan’s top-four hopes, while Udinese climb to eighth to close on European places themselves.
Although Stefano Pioli’s team had 64 percent possession and 69 percent in the second half, Milan had fewer shots than the hosts (14:10).
They seemed to be back on track in Serie A after ending a run of five wins without a win with three wins in a row, but are now again without a win on three occasions (U1 N2).
Friulani find their fire at home
Udinese coach Andrea Sottil received the red card for his passionate protests when Ibrahimovic’s penalty was repeated, but must have been pleased with his side’s immediate response and second-half performance.
They hadn’t won a home game in nine league games since beating Inter (6 draws, 3 defeats), but in the end they defeated the opposing team from Milan relatively easily.
Zlatan’s return is not very exciting
Considering his injury woes and age, Ibrahimovic played well in his first start in over a year, coming on for the suspended Olivier Giroud and playing 76 minutes.
However, few others appeared, with Leao (three) being the only player other than Ibrahimovic (two) to have more than one shot, while Alexis Saelemaekers lost the ball 16 times and regained it just once in his 64 minutes on the pitch.
Key Opta facts
– Ibrahimovic (156 goals) has overtaken Roberto Mancini, Luigi Riva and Filippo Inzaghi for 21st top scorer in Serie A history.
– Samardzic is the youngest player to have scored at least three goals and provided at least three assists (four goals and three assists) in Serie A this season.
– Since the 1994/95 season, only Olivier Bierhoff (36) and Roberto Muzzi (45) have played fewer games than Beto (55) to score 20 Serie A goals for Udinese.
– Ibrahimovic – already the oldest outfield player in Serie A in the three-points-for-a-win era – is the third 41-year-old outfielder to start a Serie A game since such data became available (1994-95 ).
– Milan have lost four of their last five away games in Serie A (W1), as many away defeats as in the previous 54 away games.
Udinese travel to Bologna on Sunday 2 April when Serie A returns after the international break, while Milan travel to leaders Napoli on the same day.