Udinese dented AC Milan’s Champions League hopes at the Dacia Arena on Saturday evening in Serie A with a 3-1 win.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start for the away side in over a year, and he was at the heart of first-half controversy.
Roberto Pereyra opened the scoring early after slack Milan defending, but minutes before the end of the half Jaka Bijol was harshly penalised for a handball to concede a penalty.
Ibrahimovic missed at first but it was ordered to be retaken, prompting Udinese’s manager Andrea Sottil to be sent off for his protests before the veteran Swede levelled with his second attempt.
That looked set to send the sides in level at the break, only for Beto to prod home to restore Udinese’s lead.
Milan trail second-placed Inter Milan by two points going into the match, and third-placed Lazio by one.
A win for mid-table Udinese could have taken them as high as seventh, had they won by a huge margin, but instead they settled for eighth.
In the second half, Milan started to put some pressure on a tiring Udinese, but Kingsley Ehizibue tucked away a low cross to establish a two-goal lead.
Talking point – Time has come for Zlatan
After a year out of the starting line-up it was heartening to see the 41-year-old ready at kick-off. Given all he has achieved over the last three decades, it is fitting that he should decide when he walks away from the sport.
But that time might be soon. There are a few months left of the season for him to regain his match sharpness, and he has come back from serious injury before, but the Swede was never the fastest, and his explosiveness is clearly diminished.
Milan have built a young and promising squad, the time may now be here for Ibrahimovic to retire from top flight football.
Player of the match – Kingsley Ehizibue (Udinese)
The right-sided player was dangerous and probing in attack, but aggressive and diligent in defence. Without him the first half would have been less dangerous for Milan, and tougher in the second.
Udinese: Silvestri 7, Becao 6, Bijol 6, Perez 6, Ehizibue 7, Pereyra 7, Walace 6, Samardzic 6, Udogie 7, Success 6, Beto 6. Subs: Lovric 6, Thauvin 6, Arslan, Ebosele 6, Zeegelaar 6.
AC Milan: Maignan 6, Kalulu 5, Thiaw 5, Tomori 5, Saelemaekers 5, Bennacer 5, Tonali 5, Ballo-Toure 5, Diaz 5, Leao 6, Ibrahimovic 5. Subs: Krunic 6, Rebic 6, De Ketelaere 6, Origi 6, Calabria 6.
9’ – GOAL! UDINESE 1-0 MILAN – PEREYRA SCORES – Tomori can’t reach a crossfield pass, it’s intercepted by Samardzic. He attacks down the inside right, slightly overruns it into the box and Pereyra spins to aim a low shot past Maignan.
45’ – PENALTY! Bijol is punished for the ball bouncing off his thigh and into his arm.
45+2’ – SOTTIL SENT OFF! He’s screaming at the referee as the penalty has been re-awarded for encroachment.
45+3’ – GOAL! UDINESE 1-1 MILAN – IBRAHIMOVIC SCORES – He blasts it down the middle and is mobbed by his team-mates.
45+5’ – GOAL! UDINESE 2-1 MILAN – BETO SCORES – The Brazilian pounces at the near post to tuck away a low cross after a scramble in the box.
70’ – GOAL! UDINESE 3-1 MILAN – EHIZIBUE SCORES – Success picks up the ball on the left, cuts it back and it’s turned on to Ehuizbue at the back post.
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