Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s milestone stoppage-time strike salvaged a 1-1 draw for Serie A leaders Milan at Udinese on Saturday.
Milan’s miserable week looked set to take another turn for the worse after Beto gave Udinese a first-half lead at Dacia Arena, four days after the Rossoneri were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool.
But Ibrahimovic rescued a point with an acrobatic volley in time added on, taking his goal tally to 300 in Europe’s top five leagues.
Isaac Success was then shown a red card for violent conduct as Udinese had to settle for a point in their first game under interim head coach Gabriele Cioffi, who stepped in when Luca Gotti was sacked this week.
Injury time Ibra to avoid defeat
— AC Milan (@acmilan) December 11, 2021
The table-toppers were given an early warning when Gerard Deulofeu was denied by Mike Maignan and the same man bent a right-footed shot just wide of the far post before Ibrahimovic blazed over the crossbar at the other end.
Udinese were deservedly in front 17 minutes in, when Beto capitalised on Tiemoue Bakayoko’s mistake by racing clear and finishing from close range at the second attempt after Maignan kept his initial effort out.
Milan finally warmed to the task, with Brahim Diaz rifling wide of the near post and Theo Hernandez having a goal ruled out for offside late in the first half.
Stefano Pioli made a triple-change at the break, and Ibrahimovic had a chance to level right at the start of the second half when he fired over the bar with his right foot, while Diaz blazed wildly wide after bursting into the box.
Veteran striker Ibrahimovic headed off target as the Rossoneri’s frustration mounted, before Beto wasted a chance to seal victory when he shot just wide.
That proved to be costly, as Ibrahimovic levelled with a spectacular close-range finish after Udinese failed to deal with a ball in from the right, and there was still time for Success to be given his marching orders after sparking a melee by clashing with Maignan.
What does it mean? Relief for Milan but rivals ready to pounce
Although Milan were poor in the first half, they were eventually rewarded for their persistence when Ibrahimovic pounced with time running out.
Pioli’s side could slip from the summit to third on Sunday, though, with second-placed rivals Inter taking on Cagliari and Napoli up against Empoli.
This has been a week to forget for Milan, but the evergreen Ibrahimovic ensured it could have been worse.
Zlatan joins the 300 club
It did not appear to Ibrahimovic’s night, but his first shot on target in four attempts saw him take his goal haul to 300 combined in Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League.
It came in his 450th match in the top five leagues in Europe. Cristiano Ronaldo (483) and Lionel Messi (475) are the only other players to have achieved that goalscoring feat this century.
Midfielder Bakayoko was replaced at half-time along with Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic. They could have no complaints, with Bakayoko totally ineffective in the middle of the park and at fault for Beto’s goal.
Key Opta Facts
– Milan have failed to win in four of their past six Serie A matches (D2 L2), as many as in their previous 20.
– Udinese have drawn seven of their past 11 league games (W1 L3).
– Only Dusan Vlahovic (11) and Giovanni Simeone (10) have scored more Serie A goals than Beto (seven) since the start of October.
– Prior to Beto, the last player to have scored at least seven goals in Udinese’s opening 17 Serie A games of a season as a debutant for the club was Dino Fava Passaro, with eight in 2003-04.
– Milan have made the most errors leading to goals in Europe’s top five leagues since the start of November (four).
Milan face a huge clash with Napoli at San Siro next Sunday, while Udinese come up against Crotone in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday.
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